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Art V section 24 - Rules of Procedure
It is proposed that Article V section 24 be deleted. This article
provides that meetings of the Board, its committees, and the SOs follow
Roberts Rules of Order (Newly Revised), unless waived by a majority vote.
I strongly recommend that the Board retain Article V section 24, and make
two amendments to it described in a separate message.
I have both chaired and participated in many technical standards groups
and policy-making bodies in international telecommunications over the past
25 years. I have personally found Roberts Rules, when consistently applied
by knowledgeable (or well-advised) groups, extremely effective in handling
even the most delicate and contentious situations.
More importantly, eliminating the provision for any parliamentary
authority in the Bylaws is an extremely dangerous step.
We all aspire to have meetings conducted in a non-adversarial manner,
seeking unanimity or a strong consensus wherever possible. However, it is
not practical to expect that we can achieve this goal 100% of the time. At
some point, issues arise with sharply divided and strongly held opinions.
Robert Rules provides a well-tested mechanism to debate each proposal
bearing on the issue in an orderly manner... to consider in sequence
proposals for modifications... to allow a majority to defer taking a
decision while other approaches are explored... and to ensure that the views
of minorities are able to be expressed and considered at each stage in the
proceedings. Provisions are also made for those who voted for an action to
later ask for reconsideration. Properly applied, Roberts Rules can guide
any group through difficult times to a result which will be well-considered
and supported by the necessary majority.
Most importantly, Roberts Rules contains many provisions to ensure that
the opinions of a minority CAN and WILL be heard, and minority voices are
not shut out unless it is clearly determined by the assembly (through
specified super-majority votes) that debate should be limited or terminated.
Robert Rules also provides a process under which any participate who feels
the rules have not be properly followed may ask for corrective action to be
taken. And Roberts Rules provides procedures to permit a meeting to eject a
disruptive participant in extreme circumstances.
Of course, much of the time the strict application of formal voting is
not required. Roberts Rules foresees this, and provides for decisions to be
taken by unanimous consent.
One might think that Robert Rules is not required for work by small
groups. However, research by experts in parliamentary systems have shown
that any group larger than 4 or 5 benefits by being able to revert to a
parliamentary process when difficult, complex, or contentions matters must
be resolved. A Board containing 19 Directors definitely will need formal
processes from time to time.
If the Board were to adopt the proposed Bylaws amendment, and remove the
rule of a parliamentary authority, the Board then leaves itself, its
committees, and the SOs with NO FORMAL MECHANISM to take any decision under
contentious circumstances. This is not to say that it will be impossible
to take a decision -- rather, it will be more time-consuming and difficult
to reach a decision, and the process by which the decision was reached may
not be viewed as fair by either participants or outside observers. Given
the sensitivity of the issues to be decided by ICANN, and the high level of
public and governmental scrutiny already given to ICANN, even the perception
of improper consideration would be very damaging to ICANN's credibility.
Furthermore, Roberts Rules contains many provisions which are not covered
thoroughly by ICANN's Bylaws, but which are useful to its groups; e.g.,
required information which must be contained in the minutes, actions to take
when a quorum is lacking, mechanisms to form and disband committees,
procedures for a Committee of the Whole, procedures for rescinding actions,
mechanism for calling emergency meetings, etc.
Again, I recommend the Board reject the proposed amendment to delete
Article V, section 24.
-- Eric Scace