Presented to the Toronto
Parliamentary Society, by Richard Slee on December 3, 2002
- An organization has the right to protect itself from
actions of its members, which are inconsistent with its purpose, bylaws,
or rules of order.
- Members of an organization have the right to be
protected from discipline, which abrogates their basic rights of justice,
due notice and fairness.
- Discipline should be progressive, going from its
lowest form of drawing undesirable behaviour to a member’s attention to
the ultimate punishment that can be exerted by an organization, expulsion.
- Discipline should always follow due process to ensure
the rights of the individual members is no abrogated and the organization
- If an organization has bylaws specifying a process of
discipline it must be followed exactly to be legitimate. Where the bylaws
are silent an organization can draft and pass bylaws, write rules or rely
on it parliamentary authority (as follows).
Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 10th
- The most extensive rules or procedures for discipline
are contained in Robert’s, Chapter 20.
- Even if an organization has not adopted Robert’s as
its parliamentary authority Robert’s should be consulted. (in this case
there can be no conflict with organization’s bylaws or adopted authority).
procedures are rarely or sparingly used.
- Type of penalties that can be imposed: reprimand,
fine (if specified in Bylaws), suspension and expulsion
- Procedure can be divided into two categories, offences
within a meeting, and outside of a meeting
In a Meeting
- Only members have the right to attend meetings and
then only as specified under the Bylaws (e.g. types of meeting or
qualification e.g. dues are current). Non-members can be included or
excluded as the society decides. A non-member attending a meeting can
usually be expelled from the meeting by a decision of the Chair. However,
a member can appeal such a decision.
- Members and the presiding officer should always
maintain order and decorum.
- The Chair should always deal with a lack of order or
decorum in a calm deliberate fashion.
- Slight breaches of order and decorum should be dealt
with by the Chair by bringing to the attention of the member the breach
e.g. addressing a member directly rather than through the Chair.
- Calling a Member to Order
- For a more serious offence such as interrupting a
speaker or disregarding the Chair’s request or questions a members
- Chair declares the member out of order and requests
them to be seated or a member can also call a member to order, which must
be immediately ruled on by the Chair.
- If the member has the floor then the Chair must
state what the breach of order was and put the matter to the assembly
“Shall the member be allowed to continue speaking?” (Not debateable)
- Naming the Offender
- If a member continues to disregard the chair after
being reminded several times or the matter is grave, the Chair may
formally name the offender.
- This “naming” is recorded in the minutes.
- Leading up to this “charge” the Chair should ask
the Secretary to start recording the offences.
- The matter can be dropped, if the assembly chooses,
if the member comes to order and/or apologizes for their behaviour
- If not, the assembly can impose a penalty or the
Chair can ask the assembly if they want to impose a penalty.
- The motion can: request the member apologize or
withdraw his remarks, censure, to leave the meeting, suspension or
- The motion requires a seconder and a majority vote
to carry except for expulsion, which require a two/thirds vote.
- The member can be excluded from the meeting room if
the assembly so chooses but should be allowed to make a brief defence.
- If a member refuses to leave, the organization has
the right to use reasonable force (and no more) to remove them (or have
them removed by the Police, you might be asked by the Police to press
Outside of a Meeting
- Some organizations list offences in their Bylaws
- If an offence occurs other than at a meeting, members
have no direct knowledge, therefore charges should be defined and a trial
held before the society or a committee selected for that purpose.
- A member’s privacy must be protected (trial is in
executive session), and hearsay evidence can be admitted.
- A member should be encouraged to resign if the evidence
is clear that they are guilty of the offence.
- An Investigation Committee (5 members is suggested)
is appointed and conducts a confidential investigation.
- The Committee reports (if charges are to be made, the
report should be in writing and signed by each member) and offers a motion
exonerating the member or pressing charges. The motion should also specify
the date (usually 30 days latter to allow the accused to prepare),
location of the trial and who will manage the trial (not the same as
prosecutor – they are not trying to get a conviction but to find the
- If the trial is to be by Trial Committee then this
committee has to be formed and should be different from the Investigation
- The Secretary then sends a Formal Notification to the
accused by registered mail, giving the place and time of the trial and
setting out the charges.
- At the Trial the chairs goes through the following
- Requests Secretary to read the charges
- Requests the accused to plead. If he pleads guilty
the penalty specified (usually termination) is then dealt with by the
committee or assembly.
- Opening statements by both the mangers and the
- Testimony of witnesses for the managers
- Testimony of witnesses for the accused
- Rebuttal witnesses for the managers
- Rebuttal witnesses for the accused
- Closing arguments for both sides
- Accused removed from meeting
- Voting takes place by the committee members or
assembly on each charge (debatable and amendable).
- If found guilty voting then takes place on the
penalty (debatable and amendable). Requires a majority vote except for
expulsion, which takes a 2/3 vote.
- If the trial has been conducted by a committee then
the committee’s recommendations must be brought before the assembly for
- If guilty, the accused is allowed to make a statement
to the assembly, as is the committee.
- The assembly can change the finding of guilty, but
can only lessen the penalty. If the accused is not guilty the assembly
cannot impose a penalty.
- Some societies of professionals have permanent
Discipline Committees established in their bylaws.
- Robert’s also gives guidance on the discipline or
removal of an officer from office.
- If a presiding officer does not hear an appeal, a
member can conduct a vote on the appeal from the floor
- If a presiding officer fails to perform his duties,
under the rules of order and bylaws a body can use a motion of censure.
- If the presiding officer is not a member a motion
can be made to declare the chair vacant and elect a new presiding officer
- If the Chair is a officer can be disposed from
- If the bylaws state that the officer shall serve
“for __ years or until their successor is elected” the election of the
officer in question can be rescinded and a new election held.
- If the bylaws state that the officer shall serve
“for __ years and until their successor is elected” (not the recommended
wording) a trial (as described above) must be held to remove the officer
Demeter’s Manual of Parliamentary Law and
Procedures, by George Demeter, Revised edition 1969
Chapter 19, pages 259 to 269.
- Demeter describes four types of discipline (the third
implying a trial)
- Motion of no confidence or confidence
- Motion of censure
- Trial of members and officers
- The motion for a vote of non-confidence or
confidence is an incidental main motion, and must seconded, is
debatable and amendable.
- In a government if a motion of non-confidence is
carried or a vote of confidence is lost, the government is usually forced
to resign. In a normal organization it is merely a disapproval of the
program, acts, or policies of some officer or the board. It does not
compel and officer or board to resign
- The motion of censure is an incidental main
motion, and must be seconded, is debatable and amendable.
- This motion is usually directed at an officer,
chair of committee or board and is a reprimand.
- It does not require previous notice.
- Serious grounds for censure of a member or
presiding officer can include, persistent violation of the rules,
assaults on the floor, slanderous or insulting remarks, disorderly
conduct, disobedience to instruction, fraud or cheating, bribery,
conspiracy, larceny, destruction on property, disloyalty, absenteeism
(some of these I feel would be grounds for expulsion)
- Censure requires only a majority vote (even if it involves
- If an officer persists – then you can prefer
charges or amend the bylaws (with notice and a 2/3 votes) to remove the
- The motion to impeach is an incidental main
motion, requires a second, is debatable and amendable and requires a
majority to refer to trial. The motion to impeach always goes to trial in
an ordinary society.
- The preferment of charges and the holding of a trial
is much the same as with Robert’s with these differences
- Instead of mangers and the accused, Demeter speaks
of counsels or attorneys (no more than two (Roberts also says you can use
- Demeter states that the Board or a Committee can
hear the case but is not clear whether the assembly has to hear the case,
except on appeal (and then this has to be specified in the bylaws).
- If held before the assembly members must submit
their questions in writing to the presiding officer to ask the counsel to
ask the question (also his own question must be directed through counsel)
- Robert’s stresses confidentiality and protection of
privacy at each step of the trial whereas Demeter says that members have
a right to discuss the trial. Robert’s even suggests caution at the end
of the trial i.e. the society only informs other organizations that the
member/officer no longer is a member not getting into the details.
- Minor penalties require a majority, whereas serious
penalties of suspension and expulsion require a 2/3 votes. Robert’s only
requires a 2/3 vote for expulsion.
- Demeter states that the outcome of the trial is a motion
of accusation therefore all subsidiary and privileged motions can apply
to it including tabling, postponement or to postpone indefinitely etc.
- A motion of not guilty, if carried, cannot be
The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure Third
Edition Alice Sturgis, 1988
- Procedures should be included in Bylaws.
- Every organization has the right to discipline,
suspend or expel a member for cause.
- A member can be expelled for dereliction of duty,
breach of a fundamental rule or principle, violation of the bylaws, a
member fails or refuses to work within the framework of the organization,
or the violation of duties as a citizen (breaking the law).
- Steps for imposing severe discipline or expulsion:
- Charges in affidavit form.
- Investigation by committee which if it finds
cause will set a date and notify the secretary.
- Notification of accused 15 days before date
of hearing, copy of charges, and a listing of the accused’s rights e.g.
to be present and to have representation.
- Hearing is conducted by the committee with
generally the same provision as Robert’s.
- Decision is communicated by the committee to
the accused and secretary.
- Penalty recommended by the Board of
Directors to the membership if the accused is found guilty. The decision may
be approved by a majority vote at a general membership meeting.
- Some organizations readmit a member who has been
expelled after a certain period of time.
Bourinot’s Rules of Order, Third Revised
Edition, Geoffrey Standford 1977
Page 29 Decorum and Page 56
Rules of the House of Commons
- Duty of the Speaker to preserve order and decorum.
- In deciding a point of order or practice he states
the standing order or authority applicable. No debate or appeal can be
- A member called to order by the Speaker must obey at
once, withdrawing any offensive words or making the necessary apology.
- If a member disobeys the Speaker “Names” him for
disregarding the authority of the Chair.
- In extreme cases the Leader of the House may move
that the member be suspended for one or more sessions. The motion is not
amendable or debatable. If he does not comply he can be escorted by the
Sergeant at Arms.
Rules and Usages for Assemblies Generally
- If a member says or does anything contrary to the
rules and established customs the Chairman should immediately call him to
- If more serious, the Chair can declare a member out
- Chairs’ ruling is not debatable but a motion to
dissent from the order of the chair can be made and seconded. A majority
can over turn the ruling of the Chair
- If order cannot be restored the Chair may vacate the
chair and adjourn the meeting to another day.
- Chair does not usually have the power to impose
- A motion can be made from the assembly to impose
discipline and must be carried by a “substantial majority”.
- Non-members can be asked to leave the meeting by the
- Bourinot notes that slander is oral and libel is
written defamation of character of another and that members should take
note of this.
Procedures for Meetings and Organizations,
Second Edition, Kerr and King
There is nothing in Kerr and King
that comes under the heading discipline. Organizations using Kerr and King
should do what they recommend on page 33 “to establish a set of fair procedures
before such an occasion arises”.
- Removal from Office, Committees or Membership Page
33-34 and 178-79
- Bring the conduct, that appears contrary to the
purpose of the organization, to the Board
- The Board then asks the accused for an explanation
(sounds almost like a trial).
- If the Board is not satisfied or the member fails to
appear, the Board asks the member to resign.
- If the member does not resign, he is given a notice
of the recommendation of the Board to the assembly and the date of the
meeting. The recommendation is made as a special resolution (2/3 vote, not
amendable except within the limits of the motion, however the rules
specifically governing this motion to remove an officer states no
- The motion is circulated and the accused is allowed a
written rebuttal, which is also circulated before the meeting.
- He is allowed to speak in debate and vote on the
motion (written vote). The Chair gives the accused the last word before
the vote. The motion for removal requires a 2/3 vote
- The motion to remove a person from office cannot be
amended. Page 89.
- Membership Committee sometimes deals with termination
and suspension of members. Page 139
- Suspension appears to be only done for none payment
of dues. Page 33