Members should control organization

I used to give a talk in which I described executive boards as a cancer on the voluntary societies of America. Pretty harsh, I know, but back then the online Robert’s Rules Questions and Answer Forum (http://www.robertsrules.com/mboard.html) was filled with tales of officers and boards overstepping their authority. RONR has stated since the 7th edition that when the bylaws provide for an executive board, “the board has only such power as is delegated to it by the bylaws or by vote of the society’s assembly referring individual matters to it.” (RONR [11th], p. 482, ll. 26–29) Since you can never be too careful about these things, the 11th edition further clarified that, without express authorization, a board cannot rescind or amend a motion adopted by the membership, nor can it adopt a motion that the membership has previously rejected (p. 577, ll. 23–29). Take that, overreaching boards! But reining in the board is just a start. If the membership really wants to control the society’s affairs, it needs to take charge of its committees as well. How often, after an important matter has been referred to a committee, do we learn that the committee never even met to consider it? Or that its report ignored the assembly’s intentions or exceeded the committee’s authority? The two keys, I think, to making a committee work for the membership—rather than for itself—are...

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