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.

Don’t drink on Zoom

Dear Dinosaur: As our Zoom meeting rolls along, a member of our board starts making quips and silly jokes. He keeps his video off and takes a long time to unmute when called upon to vote. Then he leaves himself unmuted, and starts making jokes while others are speaking. A few days after the meeting, he confesses to me that he has vodka in his water glass. What can be done about this?

Answer: It shouldn’t need saying, but the use of alcohol at local government meetings dishonors your board, fellow elected members, and your community. It keeps the member from bringing his full mental capabilities to the task. It can lead to inappropriate and disruptive behavior, and neglect of fiduciary duties.

In a one-on-one conversation, you might say to the member, “I appreciate your sharing this with me.  Am I right in taking this as your promise it won’t happen anymore?” Perhaps your board will have to pass a policy that members will refrain from consuming intoxicating substances during the meeting, with appropriate consequences for violations.

Dear Dinosaur provides simple, practical answers to questions about Robert’s Rules and parliamentary procedure. Send your questions to Dear Dinosaur here. Our answers are based on Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 12th edition. As always, nothing in this post constitutes legal or business advice. For specific issues, seek a qualified authority.

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Ann Macfarlane

Ann G. Macfarlane is a Professional Registered Parliamentarian. She offers an interactive and user-friendly way to master the key points for effective, efficient and fair meetings. Her background as a diplomat and Russian translator enables her to connect with elected officials and nonprofit board directors and give them the tools they need for success. She is the author of Mastering Council Meetings: A guidebook for elected officials and local governments.