The Professional Registered Parliamentarian—my lifeline…you’ve got to be kidding!!
- Are you involved in contentious meetings?
- Does the majority of your board members feel ineffective or demonstrate a certain lack of competency while performing their duties?
- Is there the possibility of confrontations arising during your meetings because members feel their issues are not being addressed?
- During your meetings, do you need a lawyer, a policeman and a parliamentarian to ensure all issues are addressed—calmly, unemotionally, and fairly?
If you belong to a homeowners’ association, a profit or nonprofit organization and you answered yes to any of these questions, the Professional Registered Parliamentarian is your protector--your lifeline to ensuring that all meetings are run effectively and smoothly. The rights of all members are observed, respected, and issues are resolved expeditiously without incident—even amicably.
I just completed the National Association of Parliamentarians’ recertification program for Professional Registered Parliamentarians. I, now, more than ever, realize what a select group of professionals we have in our organization. I am so honored and proud to be a member of this professional group, whose purpose is to assist and develop leaders by providing parliamentary expertise and training in meeting management. We truly want others to succeed and we provide this training with tact and professionalism. In order to provide this training and expertise, we must also be trained. Every Professional Registered Parliamentarian is required to be recertified or have their credentials renewed every six years.
I recently took part in the new professional renewal process, which meets the needs of today’s Professional Registered Parliamentarian by allowing some flexibility in completing the mandated requirements. Five modules are required for renewal: Ethics, Governing Documents, and Writing Parliamentary Opinions, Understanding the Current Edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, and Serving as a Meeting Parliamentarian. At the time of this writing, two elective modules are required from the following modules: Doing Business as a Professional Parliamentarian, Research and Writing, Script Writing, Serving as a Presiding Officer, and Teaching Parliamentary Procedure. I selected Script Writing and Teaching Parliamentary Procedure. I believe all of the modules are excellent; however, one that is foremost in my mind is the Ethics module. I think ethics should be foremost in all of our lives. Strong ethics sets the standard for our conduct; it is the very fiber that determines who we are—our very being, our makeup. There are four elements of the National Association of Parliamentarians Code of Ethics: Section 1, “Universal Standards for Parliamentarians, Section 2, Ethical Standards Within the Profession, Section 3, Ethical Standards Relating to Obtaining Appointments, and Section 4, Ethical Standards in Relation to Clients. The concept of ethics is held as a standard of conduct for all members of the National Association of Parliamentarians. It defines how we handle ourselves and how we relate to each other and our clients. Several examples involving the code of ethics immediately come to my mind.
I had served as the parliamentarian for this organization for a number of years. Every year the leadership changed within the organization due to elections and it had been my role over the years to advise the presiding officers of the requirements necessary to conduct business. I also prepared the scripts for each meeting. Several controversial issues occurred during that current year and I gave feedback to the presiding officer of how the issues might be handled. The presiding officer listened and decided to proceed as they had originally decided. As Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th ed.), page 465, states, “The parliamentarian’s role during a meeting is purely an advisory and consultative one…” Subsequent to this discussion, another issue arose which involved an interpretation of the organization’s bylaws. The presiding officer wanted to proceed with an action which was not stated in the bylaws. The presiding officer had received information from others that even though the action was not clearly stated in the bylaws, the intent was there and besides, other organizations were taking similar actions. Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 11th edition, page 588, states, “When the meaning is clear, however, the society , even by a unanimous vote, cannot change the meaning except by amending its bylaws…Again, intent plays no role unless the meaning is unclear or uncertain…” In other words, if it’s not stated in the bylaws, you can’t take any action. There was also another issue. If an organization continually performs an act which conflicts with its bylaws, fundamental principles of parliamentary law, etc.—which are called continual breaches – actions taken are null and void. Please read Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th ed.), page 251. The presiding officer decided to proceed with the action. Section 3.6 and Sections 4.3 and 4.7 from the Code of Ethics defined my subsequent action. Section 3.6 states: Decline any appointment in which the parliamentarian is likely to be unduly restricted in the exercise of independent professional judgment. Section 4.3 states. Advise the client on the proper application of the accepted rules of parliamentary procedure notwithstanding the client’s personal desires in the matter. Section 4.7 states: Call to the attention of the presiding officer any deviation from the rules that may be harmful to the organization. While I understood the presiding officer’s position, I also understand and follow our code of ethics. I had no choice, but to resign from the position. I resigned.
Another of my clients requested a parliamentary opinion on actions that were being taken by the president of the organization. She thought the actions being taken were inappropriate and violated the bylaws. I wrote the opinion. While the actions taken by the presiding officer might be questionable, they did not violate the bylaws. I know what the client wanted, yet there was no violation of the bylaws. This was reflected in my opinion. We talked at length and I helped her to understand what was and was not written in the bylaws. More than that, we talked about how this issue could be corrected and resolved without embarrassing the president or the organization. The client was not happy with the opinion, but she wanted to do what was best for the organization…that was to do nothing at that time. I believe that most of my clients truly want to do what’s best for their organization. To do what’s best for the organization, you cannot violate the law or your bylaws, regardless of the intent. That’s why you hire a Professional Registered Parliamentarian.
The Professional Registered Parliamentarian is not an attorney or a policeman, but a professional parliamentary consultant. He/she has acquired the skills and credentials to give you advice that can actually be used in a court of laws. This trained parliamentary advisor is definitely your lifeline to success and leadership development in your organization. He/she will keep you and your organization out of trouble…and in the end, everyone will be truly impressed by your incredible leadership ability and how well your meetings are conducted.