CONSEQUENCES: THE DARK SIDE OF QUORUM
Updated: Aug 30, 2022
This blog post is part of my series, Civic Citizens Series on Governance. It aims to help Grey Highlands residents learn how local government works.
This blog series includes the following posts:
The Procedural By-Law: How Robert Rules Us (coming soon)
Therefore, be it Resolved: A Resolution (coming soon)
Confirming your Choice: The By-Law (coming soon)
Consequences: The Dark Side of Quorum (this post)
This post explores quorum.
In general, quorum is the minimum number of members that must be present at a meeting. If the minimum is not met then the proceedings of that meeting are not valid.
If you have been following along, you’ll know that the Procedural By-Law spells out the rules, including quorum. It states…
“Quorum” shall mean a majority of the whole number of Members required to constitute a Council.
In Grey Highlands there are currently seven Members; therefore, four Members must be present at a meeting for quorum to be achieved. Or more simply, the minimum number of voters needed for a valid election.
It sounds simple, but there are consequences.
The Dark-Side to Quorum
O’kay, dark-side might be a bit dramatic, but it does have its downfalls, for example, if I decided to go golfing, my foursome couldn’t be myself and three other Council Members. And, we certainly could not discuss ANYTHING related to municipal business.
This is all in the name of transparency; our hands are figuratively tied. In short, we can’t collude.
This can be frustrating because I am a believer in co-operation. I find it creative and effective. I enjoy working with others.
In the post, Civic Citizen Series: Governance - Getting it Perfect: The Draft Agenda, I discussed the stage before the Agenda is public where Members met with staff to ask questions and seek clarification on a Report. Members usually complete this individually because of the rules of quorum.
In the digital age, quorum is even trickier. When a Member emails all Council Members, it must be clear that no business can be decided. Though each Member can respond individually to the sender, you cannot hit Reply All.
Another example occurs before the beginning of a Council meeting as we all gather and prepare for the 1:00 o’clock Council meeting to begin. Our Clerk has us well trained, and, as soon as our Member numbers increase from three to four we stop talking about municipal business, and switch to some other topic. (Usually, it turns to weekend plans or that morning CBC reports.)
DID YOU KNOW? A plenum is a meeting of the full (or rarely nearly full) body.
DID YOU KNOW? In Latin, quorum means "of whom" (the plural of qui, meaning "who.")
DID YOU KNOW? Quorum used to refer to the number of justices of the peace required to constitute a legally sufficient bench.
If there are not enough members present thirty minutes after the appointed meeting time, the Clerk records the names of every member present and the meeting is adjourned.
DISCLAIMER The staff at The Municipality of Grey Highlands are experts in their respective fields. If something here is different than staff's advice, always follow staff's direction. And, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with what I got wrong.