To the parliamentarians out there: Is this legal?

At the 99th Legislative District Republican Committee meeting on December 14, 2009:

To download, click here (139 KB MP3).

I don’t have a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order so I’m not too familiar with parliamentarian procedure. Anyone want to help?

Cross-posted at “I’m Surrounded By Idiots” and On The Right.


8 thoughts on “To the parliamentarians out there: Is this legal?

  1. Depends on what that was. If it was the open portion of any body in the Commonwealth, no it was not legal and actually in direct violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

  2. In that case, you would have to review the bylaws but as a general rule, if in open session there is nothing to prevent to recording unless there is a provision prohibiting it in the bylaws. Generally speaking, in the Commonwealth, that is not the case and in many instances, depending on the corporate structure, not allowed. In any event, that the ensuing discussion centered on a motion coming out of executive session is not germane to the issue of recording. Executive session is what it is to preclude public viewing of the deliberations, the requirement to make any resulting motions outside of executive session is to ensure the opposite. What idiot made that statement?

  3. R. Allen Webb, Chairman of the 99th Legislative District Republican Committee.

    Here’s a link to their bylaws:,%202006.pdf

    There’s no mention of recording devices in the Republican Party of Virginia’s party plan that I see either. The party plan notes that an “official committee” (which the 99th District Committee is) is required to have meetings open to the public.

  4. Tim,

    I am a member of the Jefferson Literary & Debating Society at the University of Virginia. It is a group that is governed by parliamentary procedure under Roberts Rules of Order. I was President of the Society for a semester and became quite familiar with the rules as they govern a Society.

    Mom is correct in that the best way to resolve this is to look at the bylaws that the committee has adopted. With a quick glance, there is no mention of an executive session which means you typically resort to using Robert’s Rules.

    I guess what is most interesting to me is what the chair is doing to begin with. The purpose of Robert’s Rules is to not have the chair dictate the meeting. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It is the body that governs the meeting through their use and understanding of Robert’s Rules. In actuality, the chair is a referee for the meeting and is not to install is own will into the actions of the body. But that is really more of an aside to how I see chairs misuse Robert’s Rules at any given time. This abuse usually occurs in political gatherings where people only want the perception of Robert’s Rules governing while the chair crams through whatever he wants.

    From trying to figure out what is going on, it sounds like this recording was taken during executive session, which is a big no no if that’s the case. The entire purpose of executive session is to make sure that nothing said during it is discussed outside of the session. For instance, whenever the Jefferson Society goes into executive session, a motion which requires only a majority vote, it is immediately stressed that nothing said during executive session is to be mentioned outside of that session under any circumstances. Executive Session is to only include members in good standing at the time. (an aside… there must also be quorum to make such a motion, but that is a given in that quorum is required for any business to be conducted)

    Continuing, the reason I believe this was taken during the executive session is because the chair was telling members how to conduct themselves outside of the session. What it sounded like the chair was saying was that no recordings or writings should be taken about the meeting outside of executive session. This is incorrect. The purpose of leaving executive session is so that minutes can proceed as normal.

    That said, if the chair is merely saying that nothing regarding the executive session can be mentioned once regular session has recommenced, he is indeed correct. It would be inappropriate for someone to write down notes in executive session and then post them in public under the guise that because they were not posted during executive session it’s somehow okay. In fact, one of the penalties for discussing executive session outside of said session is the removal of said member from said group.

    This was a bit rambling, but I hope it was some helpful. I’ve left out a lot of nuts and bolts of Robert’s Rules in the interest of trying to give you an answer. Let me know if there’s any other questions I could maybe help with.

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