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.

Host shuts eligible directors out of meeting

Dear Dinosaur:  With Zoom, the host kept eligible directors from entering into their board meeting while allowing others in. Then, after finally allowing those unwanted but eligible members to enter the meeting, the host removes him/her repeatedly from the meeting so that they are unable to participate in discussions, deliberation, and vote. Another method utilized was to keep muting those directors so that they could not speak. What can be done?

Answer: This is outrageous! You should make a very big fuss until the chair stops doing this. Every member has a right to attend the meeting, and take an equal part in discussion. It is a complete violation of the chair’s duty and the rules of parliamentary procedure to allow some members in, but not others, and to allow some members to speak, but not others. Talk with your attorney, your executive director, and colleagues—if the sunshine laws allow—and bring strong social pressure to bear on this overbearing and abusive chair.

Read more on how to do this in our articles:

Rights and responsibilities of the member

The chair is not in charge of your meeting

When the chair is a bully or out of line

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 complicated questions, 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.


  1. Tom Thiersch on December 11, 2020 at 1:03 pm

    While there might be legal challenge (in some venues), telling the story to local media is probably the best way to force the abusive host to behave.

    • Ann Macfarlane on December 11, 2020 at 1:20 pm

      I like that idea, Tom! It’s unpleasant, but so is the host’s behavior unpleasant. Thanks for writing.

  2. Laura Crandall on December 11, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    It really is outrageous! Best of luck to this group in getting resolution. Perhaps a co-host arrangement could reduce potential for shenanigans while having the added bonus of a back-up person who knows how to run a remote meeting platform.

    • Ann Macfarlane on December 11, 2020 at 2:54 pm

      That’s another great idea Laura, and has the advantage of not necessarily requiring a confrontation! Thank you.