Dear Dinosaur Advice Column

Got questions about Robert's Rules of Order?

Ann Macfarlane is a dinosaur who knows her stuff.
She explains the complexity of Robert's Rules so it makes sense.
She loves hearing from readers with their questions about Robert's Rules of Order.

©  CanStock Photo/andrewgenn
© CanStock Photo/andrewgenn

Dear Dinosaur

Councilmember badgers the staff

By Ann Macfarlane / May 8, 2024 /

Dear Dinosaur: One of our councilmembers puts question after question after question to the staff at meetings. Sometimes our meetings are five hours long! What can be done about this? Answer: This certainly can be a problem! We suggest that you discuss the matter with the council chair, mayor, and/or city manager, and see if…

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What if a colleague says something outrageous and insulting?

By Ann Macfarlane / February 14, 2024 / Comments Off on What if a colleague says something outrageous and insulting?

Dear Dinosaur:  At a recent citizen advisory committee meeting, a colleague made hateful statements about a minority group as a whole. This was in response to diversity training we had received. I was shocked and didn’t know what to do. Answer: It is indeed shocking when someone makes outrageous statements attacking a category of people.…

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Do I need an attorney to find out about state law for my organization?

By Ann Macfarlane / January 3, 2024 / Comments Off on Do I need an attorney to find out about state law for my organization?

Dear Dinosaur:  How can I find out about state laws pertaining to my organization? Do I have to hire an attorney? Answer: You can learn about your state’s laws pertaining to your type of organization on your own. You do not have to have a law degree to read the law and understand its plain…

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Can we pull back an item that was postponed two months ahead?

By Ann Macfarlane / December 7, 2023 / Comments Off on Can we pull back an item that was postponed two months ahead?

Dear Dinosaur: At our December board meeting, the board postponed an agenda item to early February. Is there any proper way to pull the item back early? Answer: Interestingly enough, Robert’s Rules allows an item to be postponed only to the next meeting, if it falls within a quarterly interval. You can read more about…

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Does Robert’s Rules support quorum busting?

By Ann Macfarlane / November 27, 2023 / Comments Off on Does Robert’s Rules support quorum busting?

Dear Dinosaur: Recently, two board members walked out during a roll call vote knowing that they were going to lose on the vote.  Their departure ended the meeting because there was no longer a quorum. At the next meeting, they cited “Roberts Rules” that said they had a “right” to walk out as a filibuster and…

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Can we amend land acknowledgement motion to include national anthem and state song?

By Ann Macfarlane / October 19, 2023 /

Dear Dinosaur: Our school board will be passing a resolution to institute a protocol for a Native Land Acknowledgement at school events. A board member plans to move to amend the motion to have it apply to our national anthem and state song. Can they do this? Answer:  According to Robert’s Rules of Order, amendments…

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Will a Vote of No Confidence remove the chair?

By Ann Macfarlane / September 22, 2023 / Comments Off on Will a Vote of No Confidence remove the chair?

Dear Dinosaur: We have a small group in our Precinct who are trying to remove the Chairman and causing chaos, infighting, and name calling. They are going to call for a Vote of No Confidence at our next meeting. We have adopted Robert’s Rules of Order but don’t have any bylaws. How can we stop…

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Is the Planning Commission a rubber stamp?

By Ann Macfarlane / August 15, 2023 /

Dear Dinosaur: Some of the citizens in our area accuse the Planning Commission of being a rubber stamp for staff recommendations. How should we respond? Answer: If your Planning Commission fulfills your duty of reviewing staff recommendations carefully, asking pertinent questions, deliberating on those recommendations, listening to the public, and allowing every commissioner’s opinion to…

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Insulting body language – what to do

By Ann Macfarlane / July 26, 2023 / Comments Off on Insulting body language – what to do

Dear Dinosaur:  We have a board member who rolls their eyes, sighs, shrugs their shoulders or grimaces while others are speaking. How can this be addressed? Answer: The rules of parliamentary procedure, and specifically Robert’s Rules of Order, require that all members of a body show courtesy and respect. We suggest requesting that the board…

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Can the chair take the minutes?

By Ann Macfarlane / May 8, 2023 / Comments Off on Can the chair take the minutes?

Dear Dinosaur:  In our organization, one person makes the agenda for the meeting, chairs the meeting, takes the notes, and creates the minutes. Besides being a lot of work for one person, it seems like more people should be involved to avoid the appearance of a concentration of power within the commission. Are there specific…

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