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Star Forum: ‘Gong show’ of a meeting


Dear Editor: I have long believed, those who do not stand for office, have little room to criticize those that do.  However, the complete disregard for accepted procedure demonstrated on Feb. 19 at the AGM of the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade has caused me to reconsider the role of the silent, put paying, members of an organization.

The Board of Trade bylaws state the AGM should be held in November or as soon thereafter as is convenient. It was postponed to Feb. 19 and featured Premier Dwight Ball as guest speaker. The meeting was well attended and included many MHAs and ministers of the Crown.

The AGM commenced immediately after the premier spoke. Local MHAs used that moment to leave the premises but Premier Ball and his table displayed the good manners and respect warranted of their office to remain in their seats and sit through the meeting.

They must have been cringing. There is no way to be kind about what happened next.

The complete disregard for Robert’s Rules of order challenges the legitimacy of the entire meeting. To make a list of the infractions would require half this page. I will limit my comments to the most egregious:

- The agenda was not followed. The chair seemed not be able to find it so, in his own words, he winged it.

- There were no voting cards issued so that, on a vote, it was impossible to determine those entitled to vote and those not.  

-There was no microphone provided for speakers to use. It was said afterwards than many could not hear what was being discussed due to background noise.

-There were bylaw amendments rammed though that were not circulated to the membership the required 14 days in advance.  

 At the appropriate time, I introduced myself and asked the chair (current president of board) if the amendments had been circulated prior to the meeting and perhaps I had missed mine. His response was, he didn’t know. I suggested, prior to a motion being asked for, it was required that circulation be confirmed. A responsible response to my question would have been to ask the administrator (who was in the room) to confirm the circulation. Instead, he replied that he would “call the question.”

Policy Wonk 101: one “calls the question” after the motion as been moved, seconded and discussion held and cannot be used to prevent someone from expressing their opinion. (Roberts Rules of Order — Procedure to Make a Motion — every step of this accepted rule was broken in this case).

He went on to say he had a motion on the floor to accept the amendments (who made it?) and had a seconder (who never was identified, simply alluded to) and all those in favour raise their hands.  There was a pause before any hands moved and then a few were raised. The chair said, “I can’t see to count so only those who are against raise your hand.” How he could see to count the nays but not the yeas defies explanation.

Of course I raised mine and commented that I wasn’t against the amendments as I had not had a chance to read them; I was against railroading them through. His response was that they had been on the table during lunch.

If you are not a policy wonk, bylaw amendments and policy resolutions may seem boring. Boring they may be but extremely important to the operation of an organization. Legally voted on bylaws become the rules an organization must abide by.

I will exaggerate to make my point: a bylaw amendment buried in those 10, double-sided pages could say, “the Executive Committee shall, from time to time, pay for the president to go to Vegas on vacation.”

Buried in these particular amendments, an immediate past president may not run in the next election. Why, in an organization woefully short of volunteers who want to run for election, would that matter? Perhaps it does. I for one would have liked to have a discussion on the relevance of that one in particular.

Had the premier and most of cabinet not been there I would have “gone to the mats” on that motion but seeing no obvious support in the room for my position and following the advice of my father that “discretion is the better part of valour” I sat down. The leadership of our province has better things to listen to than the gong show that was shaping that meeting.

I for one, will not be renewing my membership to the board under the current leadership. It is a small gesture but mine to make.

Donna Thistle, owner, Gitanos Supper Club and Tapas Bar

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