In the Absence of a Quorum

Where'd everybody go? You're sitting at a meeting and suddenly you realize that your quorum is no longer present. Perhaps people have been drifting out quietly (tiptoeing out early to catch that game on TV?). The matter that was being discussed was so interesting, maybe you weren't fully aware that people were getting up and leaving. What can you do now? You might not like the answer: not a lot.

FACT

Sometimes you may notice there's no quorum after a motion has been made. If there was no quorum at the time it was proposed, it's invalid. It's as if it never happened at all. The motion should be introduced again at the next meeting as new business.

What Can Be Done?

The only business that can be taken care of is to fix the time to which to adjourn, adjourn, and recess (see Chapter 8). Or, the group or organization can take steps to obtain a quorum. The members present could vote for a recess, and then call members who are absent and see if they can attend. In a few instances, some legislative bodies have the legal authority to have absent members brought to their meetings. But that's probably not your group or organization!

Keep It Legal

It can't be stressed enough that groups and organizations can't transact business without a quorum. This rule can't be waived even by unanimous consent, or with previous notice. If it's required that a meeting be conducted at a particular time and there's no quorum, the meeting can convene, but then it must adjourn.

But We Have to Act Now!

If there is business that needs to be conducted and there is no quorum, members should fix the time for an adjourned meeting and then adjourn. But in an emergency, there is one “out”: Members who are present can go ahead and take care of the emergency in the hope that when the group or organization meets next (and has a quorum), the members will approve and ratify their actions.

ESSENTIAL

The number of members needed to take action in a committee or board is the majority of its members, unless the entire membership or bylaws says otherwise. Sometimes the entire membership will decide to meet as a committee of the whole. When it does, the quorum is the number of all members.

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