Members, who have been denied transcripts of their annual Assembly since 2005, have made a transcript of the remarks parliamentarian Colette Trohan made during two Assembly teleconferences Oct. 7.
She ruled out any changes in an amendment that would remove APR as a requirement for national board/officer posts. That rule has been in effect more than 30 years, disenfranchising more than 80% of the members, critics say.
She made the same recommendation in a two-page memo to the Assembly—that the Assembly can only pass or not pass the amendment as written.
Other options she gave are to postpone any action or propose a new amendment for consideration next year.
Society members who reject the advice of Trohan note the following quote from the Oct. 7 a.m. session:
“I have been privileged this year to be involved, well mainly reading on the PRSA Listserve, and tracking the discussion with the APR amendment and it presented a very interesting parliamentary pickle for me because it took some time for me to think my way through it and be comfortable with an answer.”
Critics say the mere fact that a parliamentarian has to spend time figuring out what is fair treatment of an issue shows that the issue is beyond the scope of the parliamentarian and should be decided by the delegates themselves.
“Parliamentarians are there to tell us the rules and not make policy decisions,” said senior members. When there is ambiguity, the parliamentarians must step aside, they say.
The issue is whether board candidates must show two of three qualifications rather than the one specified in the amendment, which makes APR an option.
It’s currently proposed that candidates be either APR, show volunteer leadership posts, or have 20 years in ever-higher PR posts.
The faction in favor of keeping APR for board posts, which in the Society e-group outnumbered by 27-10 those in favor of making APR an option, proposed in the e-group that the qualification of volunteer leadership be added.
This resulted in a two-page memo by Trohan ruling out any such change because the “Scope of Notice,” as demanded by Robert’s Rules, allegedly would be violated.
Said Trohan: “The only question for which the notice was given was whether or not to make the APR required or optional. No other words in that section of the bylaws are open for amendment as that would exceed the scope of the notice given.”
Those who want to open competition for board seats to the more than 80% of members who have been denied this right say Society leadership has been “on notice” to change this since 1999 when the first Strategic Planning Committee recommended it.
Society board members, none of whom have said anything in support of the amendment in the e-group, now want to scuttle this attempt to let non-APRs on the board by taking an overly technical and literal interpretation of what is in Robert’s Rules, say the reformers.
These “Rules” have already been violated in several ways by the Assembly including last year’s vote to allow proxies when proxies are forbidden by Robert’s, they say.
Trohan’s remarks in the Oct. 7 a.m. teleconference include the following.
“This year we have three bylaws that have been proposed as isolated amendments. That’s how we fall into a little different area [from the bylaws revision last year] which is called scope of notice or basically fair warning.
“At this point members know what their bylaws say and they have the right to know this is not going to change unless certain extraordinary provisions are met and those are in your bylaws.
“There’s a provision for notice for a certain number of days and then it takes a two-thirds vote to handle it.
“I have been privileged this year to be involved, well mainly reading, on the PRSA Listserve and tracking the discussion with the APR amendment and it presented a very interesting parliamentary pickle for me because it took some time for me to think my way through it and be comfortable with an answer.
“In this case, your (APR) designation is proposed as an optional designation rather than as a mandatory designation and that is the scope of notice that the members have been given.
So if you want me to go more into that a little bit we can. The reason we use Robert’s Rules and the type of rules we use is to insure that it’s a group deliberation and that we take up one thing at a time, that everyone has the right to speak once before anybody speaks a second time.
“Because we’re in a delegate Assembly that is large with limited time we generally set time limits. These will be set in the rules at the beginning of the meeting.
“Other than that, I’m there primarily to assist your chair. My entire focus is on you, the process you’re using and helping to guide your chair through it.
“At times I may be telling Gary you have but one voice to listen to in that room and it’s mine. You have one voice to listen to because if we can work together to make sure that you are clear about where you’re going and help you to get where you want to go then we can have a great meeting.”
An unidentified female delegate asked Trohan if an amendment to the amendment was possible.
Trohan responded “It entirely depends on the motion.”
The questioner asked if some of the board members could be required to have APRs.
“That amendment would be outside the scope of notice. There was no proposal to amend the rest of the criteria.
“If an amendment had come in to say choose the following three, we could make it one of the following three. But because all it did was move the location of APR, it really is an all or nothing amendment. It didn’t handle any other part.
“Certainly with the information that you have this year you have a couple of options in my memo that I had posted. One is that a proper amendment could be made next year and it would absolutely come on the floor. The only problem would be that there would be no opportunity to change it.”
Trohan also said the delegates could talk about the issue during the next year and come up with a new proposal.