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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

How to Amend a Motion

I know that I've mentioned this as a comment on a couple of other threads, but I really want to bring it out for attention.

There was a motion introduced at the Board. The motion was this:
I move that the Board-adopted policies or procedures in Sections C & D, G21.00, F40.00, F41.00, and F42.00, excluding C08.00, C15.00, C16.00, C26.00, C26.01, C27.00, C48.00, C49.00, C52.00, C52.01, C53.00, C53.01, C54.00, C55.00, C56.00, C60.00, C62.00, C69.00, D12.00, D48.00, D50.00, D51.00, D51.01, D53.00, D70.00, D71.00, D72.00, D78.00, D80.00, D81.00, D82.00, D84.00, D104.00, D119.00, D121.00, D137.00, D138.00, D138.01, D140.00, and D140.01, be repealed and replaced with the new Series 2000 and 3000 policies listed in the attachments.
That's the motion. The motion was introduced. Now that the motion has been introduced, what does it take to change the motion? Is the introduction meaningless? Is the motion not really a motion before the Board until it is read at the meeting of December 7 immediately prior to the Board vote on the motion? Or does the introduction of the motion have meaning, and this is the motion before the Board?

I don't know, I'm asking.

If the introduction has meaning and this is the motion before the Board, then wouldn't any change to the motion require a vote of the Board to amend the motion?

If the introduction has no meaning, then there is no motion before the Board and the motion can be changed - materially - between introduction and action.

I want to emphasize the difference between making changes to the motion and changes to the Board Action Report. The Board Action Reports are often updated, expanded, and amended between introduction and action. I have no problem with that. Moreover, I don't think I even have much of a problem with minor administrative changes to motions between introduction and action.

But a material change to a motion between introduction and action is a different sort of thing. I think it should not be done without some sort of process - specifically a vote of the Board to amend the motion.

When Director Martin-Morris spoke on the phone with the interim superintendent and they agreed to pull one of the proposed Series 3000 policies from the motion without any other Board member's input, I think they exceeded their authority.

Maybe I'm totally wrong here about what is required to make a change in a motion between introduction and action. But even if I am wrong about that, I'm still concerned about the door that has been opened by this precedent. What other Board members could have called the superintendent and directed her to remove one of the proposed Series 2000 or Series 3000 policies from the motion? What gave Director Martin-Morris that authority? What, exactly, is the process here?

Let's remember that Director Smith-Blum had some serious reservations about a few of these proposed policy changes. Could she call Dr. Enfield and ask or direct her to remove some of them from the motion? Would Dr. Enfield make those changes to the motion if directed to do so by Director Smith-Blum?

I want to be perfectly clear. A decision was made. I want to know who made the decision and by what authority. Director Martin-Morris does not have the authority to make a change to a motion - not as an individual Board member and not as the chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee.

Here is a clear statement from Board Policy 1220:
Duties of Individual Board Members



The authority of individual Board members is limited to participating in actions taken by the Board as a whole when legally in session. Board members shall not assume responsibilities of administrators or other staff members. The Board or staff shall not be bound in any way by any action taken or statement made by any individual Board member except when such statement or action is pursuant to specific instructions and official action taken by the Board.
In short, Director Martin-Morris has no authority to do diddly on his own.

I have contacted Ms Bennett in the Board office and Deputy Superintendent Noel Treat for their views of this process. I hope to let you know what they say. For now, this strikes me as two or three different kinds of wrong.

17 comments:

Braessae said...

Good questions, Charlie. The sense I get (at least on things like this) is that the District (and the Board) just want to "get stuff done," and aren't plagued (gifted?) with a huge concern about the niceties of process. I don't think for a minute that Harium doesn't know, or have a good feeling, that he has the backing of most or all other committee members to take the offending policy out of the motion. But, of course, that is not the same thing as following the rules. I think they might have cared more had they thought that this current action (removing the policy from the motion) was contested. But it is not.

I have no doubt whatsoever that Noel Treat can lead them through this. My "guess" is that what SHOULD happen is that the motion goes to the board in its current (originally approved) form; when it is brought up for discussion, someone notes that neither District management nor some/all of the Committee members now supports going forward with one of the policies, and moves to amend the motion accordingly. Alternatively, when it is brought up, the Committee chair could ask to withdraw it and send it back to the committee for revision (though that seems a bit much for this particular issue) But it is too bad that they don't pay better attention to this stuff -- and for a "seasoned" Board, it seems that this shouldn't be happening at this point.

Melissa Westbrook said...

It's interesting because Harium seems very interested in national policy and yet not so interested in how it works in his own district. He didn't know initially that the school newspaper policy had been changed and had to go check it.

I think this is a long-standing kind of idea at headquarters that anything they say is okay to do, they do. It's rare for anyone to challenge that as Charlie is doing but maybe it needs to happen more often.

Anonymous said...

I believe it depends on what Rules of Order the Board uses (Roberts?) At SEA meetings once a motion is introduced it belongs to the Representative Assembly (the Body). To amend a motion on the floor takes a vote of the Body.
-STIjockey

Charlie Mas said...

I got an answer back from Noel Treat, the man I regard as the most reliable authority on this question.

Here is what he wrote:

"Thank you for your inquiry. You raise an insightful question. Susan Enfield talked with her senior staff on Monday, and then talked with Harium Martin-Morris by phone. One other Board member, Board President Steve Sundquist, was also called, to confirm the proposed policy would not be introduced on November 2. As a result of these conversations, Ms. Enfield directed that a press release be prepared, which you have seen.

These actions do not violate the Open Meetings Act.

If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
"

So we learn that two Board members were consulted. I don't understand the reference to November 2, since these calls supposedly came AFTER that day.

I wrote back to him seeking clarification on the status of motions that have been introduced but not yet up for consideration.

I could find no reference to that idea in Roberts Rules of Order. There is no Board policy on the progress of a motion.

Charlie Mas said...

Let me say this: if the Board contends that Policy 1310 extends to all motions - and not exclusively to changes in policy (as the language of the policy clearly states) - then the motion is before the Board at Introduction and cannot be amended without a vote of the Board.

I contend that Policy 1310 does not extend to all motions before the Board - particularly since it says that it applies only to motions to change Policy. So, once again, that would put motions that have been introduced into a strange limbo state.

Finally, regardless of the status of a motion after introduction, I want to know who has the authority to alter the motion during the interval. In this case, the superintendent appears to have taken this action although she did consult with two of the seven Board Directors.

RosieReader said...

"The member who offers the motion, until it has been stated by the chair, can modify or even withdraw it entirely; after it is stated, he can do neither without the consent of the assembly by a majority vote." Art. 1, Section 5 of "Robert's Rules of Order: The Modern Edition," Thomas Nelson Edition published 1989.

(I love having excuses to pull out my old copy of Robert's)

mirmac1 said...

My Robert's sucks. So, Rosie, are you agreeing with Charlie? That the motion is out there, and must be acted on by the full Board?

RosieReader said...

I don't agree that putting something on an agenda means that a motion has been made. The document that Charlie links to is called "School Board Briefing/Proposed Action Report." To make this into an actual"motion," then someone at the meeting would have to say "I move . . . . " and then there would have to be a second. Or it could be done through the consent calender.

I don't actually know whether this document was moved/seconded by a live human being at a meeting. If it was, and if the District followed Robert's, then my only point is that the mover has the right to withdraw it until it has been "announced" by the presiding officer.

mirmac1 said...

From the MRSC's Guide to the Open Public Meetings Act:

"Since the members of a governing body can discuss city, county, or district business together by telephone or by e-mail so as to be taking “action” within the above definition, the governing body can conduct a meeting subject to the Act even when the members are not in the physical presence of one another This type of meeting could take many forms, such as a conference call among a majority or more of the governing body, a telephone “tree” involving a series of telephone calls, or an exchange of e-mails. Since the public could not, as a practical matter, attend this type of “meeting,” it would be held in violation of the Act.

Given the increasingly prevalent use of e-mail and the nature of that technology, members of city councils, boards of county commissioners, and special district governing bodies must be careful when communicating with each other by e-mail so as not to violate the Act. However, such bodies will not be considered to be holding a meeting if one member emails the other members merely for the purpose of providing relevant information to them. As long as the other members only “passively receive” the information and a discussion regarding that information is not then commenced by e-mail amongst a quorum, there is no Open Public Meetings Act issue."

mirmac1 said...

"“Action” means the transaction of the official business of a public agency by a governing
body including but not limited to receipt of public testimony, deliberations, discussions,
considerations, reviews, evaluations, and final actions. “Final action” means a
collective positive or negative decision, or an actual vote by a majority of the members of
a governing body when sitting as a body or entity, upon a motion, proposal, resolution,
order, or ordinance.
"

So, if it was just introduced at the full board, I guess they weren't sitting on it. However, I understand any changes to an item that has been introduced must go through a committee, not through separate phone calls with their employee.

Here's from Board policy 1400:

Meeting Conduct and Order Of Business

All Board meetings will be conducted in an orderly and business-like manner using Roberts Rules of Order (Revised) as a guide, except when such rules are superseded by Board bylaws or policies. The order of business will be that indicated in the agenda. Any additions or changes in the prepared agenda may be requested by the Superintendent or a Board member and must be approved by majority vote of the Board members present.

mirmac1 said...

Board policy 1240:

The committees (and I expect the committee chair or members) may not interfere with the delegation of authority from the Board to the Superintendent. Committees may not exercise authority over the Superintendent or staff. Any direction to the Superintendent related to a committee recommendation will come from the full Board.

.
.
.

Action Items recommended by a majority of the committee shall be forwarded through written communication in the form of committee minutes or other means to the full Board for its consideration and action.

Charlie Mas said...

Robert's Rules doesn't address the status of motions that have been introduced at one meeting for action at a subsequent meeting. That whole idea is alien to Robert's Rules.

The motion was not "moved" and it certainly wasn't seconded, but it was discussed. Does that qualify it as being "under consideration" by the Board?

Here's another question: per policy 1310, motions to alter policies (such as this one) are special and must be introduced at a meeting before they are acted on at a subsequent meeting. Does that mean that a motion which has been changed, such as this, need to be re-introduced, so that it can be introduced prior to the vote on December 7?

Outside of the specifics of this instance, what are the rules that govern motions? Who can amend the motion during the period after introduction? By what authority?

Charlie Mas said...

Is this whole discussion too wonky for anyone to care about it?

Does anyone but me really care if the superintendent or board members alter motions between introduction and action without a public process? It doesn't happen a lot (at least I don't think it does), so maybe we shouldn't care. This is a change that we like so, again, maybe we shouldn't care.

The fact is that the Board has no policies that describe or regulate the progress of a motion. It could be argued that there are no rules to follow and there are no rules to break. They can't be accused of breaking a rule that doesn't exist.

The Board could introduce a motion that says one thing and then come back for action with a motion that says they will do something completely different. There is no rule against it.

All of this from a Board that claims they put a strong emphasis on governance.

My observation has been that this Board operates with the same close attention to process that the Lil' Rascals use at their club meetings. The Committee meetings, the work sessions, and the legislative meetings all drift along with the current set by the staff.

Anonymous said...

Ballard Parent

Charlie Mas said...

Be of good cheer, procedure geeks, I have the answer!

From Ron English, the word is that a motion which has been introduced has not been "moved" and so it has no status whatsoever. It may be freely amended by the superintendent, who is the author of the Board Action Report, which is all it is until such time as the motion is read and seconded at the Board meeting where the motion will be subject to action.

So, for a motion, the answer to the question of "When does life begin?" is "When it has been moved and seconded." No personhood at introduction.

mirmac1 said...

But what about Policy 1400:

"Any additions or changes in the prepared agenda may be requested by the Superintendent or a Board member and must be approved by majority vote of the Board members present."

Does Ron have spin for that?

Charlie Mas said...

mirmac1, that policy refers to the board meeting agenda, not to motions. Nothing has been changed on the agenda.