There has been quite a bit of positive comment in regards to the Oakville ARES group’s desire to revitalize the Oakville Amateur Radio Club.
Here a couple of thoughts to consider:
- Regardless of whether or not the club is incorporate (which I don’t know but I’m sure someone on the last executive can confirm), the provincial government has no real interest in whether or not we have a constitution. The government’s main issues centre around taxation status and the openness of the club to allowing anyone to be a member (non-discrimination);
- In fact, the Corporations Act does not provide the Ministry with the authority to intervene to resolve disputes between members and the club’s board of directors;
- Since there hasn’t been an annual general meeting called in the last year or more, the club has essentially ceased to function and all board and executive positions are no longer viable and can be considered vacant;
- In order to revitalize the club any paid-up member or group of paid-up members can agree to meet in a public place at a time and date that is well publicized. Sufficient notice should be given to allow for the maximum attendance possible;
- Those paid-up members who do meet cab appoint a person to chair the meeting;
- The chairperson should then appoint a recording secretary to keep the minutes of the meeting (This is essential.);
- Only those physically present and paid-up can participate. (Dues can be accepted at the meeting but no proxies are allowed.);
- Any paid-up member can move that the meeting be run under *Robert’s Rules of Order. If no member so moves, the chair can ask for a member to make this motion;
- Without Robert’s Rules to govern the smooth passage of business, the rights of all members can easily be abused or disregarded by other individual members;
- Robert’s Rules plus the recording of minutes give the meeting status under the laws of Canada that govern non-profit organizations;
- Following the adoption of Robert’s Rules, the next motion should be to declare the current club constitution as null and void. (This document is dated and no longer reflects the reality facing the club.);
- Once the constitutional issue is declared defunct the next motion should be to vote in a board of directors (three or more members);
- Once the board is formed, it will be up to them and the members to determine (by vote) if the executive team should be appointed by the board or voted in by the members. Either way is legal and workable;
- At this point, I’d suggest adjourning the first meeting of the newly revised club.
The adjournment is to allow the new board and executive time to figure out where to go next.
I’d suggest they would want to do the following:
- A subsequent open meeting of the board and executive (to which all members are invited to attend but no one but the board members or executive is allowed to speak) should be called;
- (Although guest members may ask for permission to address the board/executive team such permission isn’t necessarily granted or even desirable. All the decisions of the board/executive will have to be brought before another general meeting of the club to be ratified by the moving of motions and voting. The members will have their say at that time.)
- (The only closed board/executive meetings should deal with personal or staffing matters where reputations are involved. There is no other reason to close board/executive meetings to the general membership**.)
- At this meeting the board/executive team should draft a proposed action plan to present to the members at another open meeting;
- The action plan should consist of items that can easily be made into motions for presentation to the membership (Such as the formation of a repeater support group.);
- Later, (much later) a new constitution could be written if deemed necessary and presented to an annual general meeting to be voted upon and ratified by the members.
*Robert’s Rules of Orders are not designed to thwart free discussion by members.
The basics are easy to understand and to use. They prevent any individual or faction from taking over the club. They allow everyone’s voice to be heard. They create a legitimacy that is recognized by government and other governing bodies.
Essentially Parliamentary Procedure comes down to this:
- A member rises and is recognized by the chair;
- They now have the right to speak by moving a motion. They can speak to their motion only after it is seconded;
- Motions should be kept simple and the chair can help a member with phrasing;
- A seconder speaks up;
- Then a debate follows where everyone who wished to speak may do so once;
- Any motion can be amended (only two amendments per motion) and the amendments must not substantially change the main motion;
- When the chair thinks the debate is ending (or if a member yells out to “Call the Question” which can be ignored by the chair) then a simple vote by voice or raising of hands is taken and recorded by the secretary;
- If this is a money issue the vote must be two-thirds in favour. All other motions (with the exception of some procedural motions) require 51 per cent approval;
- To maintain order only one person has the floor and only one person can speak at a time and normally are only allowed to speak once per issue;
- Anyone who constantly interrupts or behaves in a bullying manner should be asked to leave or the meeting adjourned;
- Anyone can challenge a decision of the chair at any time. This will lead to an immediate vote on whether or not the member has sufficient support for the challenge to succeed;
- If at anytime you don’t know what’s happening or what to do next you can rise and ask the chair for help. You should never be in a situation where you are unsure of what is taking place;
- Difficult issues that the overall membership is struggling to resolve can be referred to committee (the board/executive group) for discussion and the presentation of a new motion for seconding and debate at a future meeting.
**This is a issue that IMHO the RAC board/executive never properly understood. Their closed board meetings were unnecessary and didn’t serve any purpose but to isolate the membership from the decision-making process.
Finally, anyone who thinks that the adoption of Robert’s Rules is too difficult or formal doesn’t realize what chaos, confusion and acrimony will result from members having no recognized method of decision-making.
Working together as a group to realize a common goal is challenging work and requires all participants to be thinking more of the group than themselves. This is a difficult task for many and not just those who attend amateur radio clubs as evidenced by the run-up to our provincial election.