This Is our Village

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Robert’s Rules of Order Are Not “The Law” For Association Meetings

By Joseph Adams on April 1st, 2015Posted in Meetings, Operations, Reader Q&A

    Question: Our condominium documents do not specifically mention any parliamentary rules or procedures that are to be used in conducting our meetings. Our president says that the meetings must be conducted pursuant to the “Florida sunshine laws.” Does Florida require that meetings be run pursuant to Robert’s Rules of Order, or some other parliamentary procedures?  R.P. (via e-mail)

Answer: The Florida Statutes do not require the use of any particular parliamentary procedures or rules. Further, there is a 1960 decision from Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal which holds that Robert’s Rules of Order is not binding or mandatory in corporate proceedings. However, the governing documents for many communities incorporate Robert’s Rules of Order as the applicable parliamentary guide for association meetings.

Robert’s Rules of Order can be very confusing, and is often misquoted. Helpful tips on using Robert’s Rules of Order, including handy charts, are available for free on the website of North Carolina attorney Jim Slaughter, at Mr. Slaughter, a certified parliamentarian and immediate past president of the College of Community Association Lawyers, has also published helpful books on parliamentary procedure, including “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Parliamentary Procedure” and “Notes and Comments on Robert’s Rules.”  These books are available in most online bookstores.

Regarding to reference to the “Florida sunshine laws,” there are specific rights property owners have at association meetings. All three community association statutes provide that owners have the right to attend board meetings and speak at board meetings with reference to all designated agenda items. Members are also entitled to “participate” in membership meetings.

Further, owners are also entitled tape record or video tape board or membership meetings. The statutes all provide that associations may adopt written reasonable rules governing frequency, duration and manner of owner statements at meetings, and may also regulate the taping of meetings by owners. I have found it a good idea to have such a set of guidelines.


  1. I have the second edition of Robert's Rules in Plain English, by Doris Zimmerman. It says a number of interesting things.

    Under "General Consent" it says: General consent is an informal agreement of the group, the method by which action is taken without a formal vote or on occasion without a motion. General consent is a valuable technique in expediting business. It quickly disposes of matters of routine business or those matters on which the Chair senses the group is in agreement.

    An example of the above is given: Chair: Are there any corrections to the minutes? [Pause.] There being none, the minutes are approved as read." If there is even one objection, the matter goes to a vote unless discussion clears it up.

    Then too, Zimmerman makes an interesting observation under "Tie Votes." She says, "If the issue is a divisive one, perhaps it is best for it to be defeated. Time heals, and the same question may always be reintroduced at a future meeting."

    I have been told of a top college and a Christian mission that conduct all their business by "sense of the meeting" rather than votes. Amazing to me, it apparently can be done. "Votes divide," one proponent of operating by sense-of-the-meeting told me.

    I'm not suggesting our UCO delegate meetings adopt such a radical procedural change for all business, much less that it would even be workable here, but the principles behind it are something to keep in mind. There is value in considering the wishes of the opposition, especially if it is a large minority. It can take time to create consensus, but patience often pays dividends in harmony.

  2. Florida's sunshine law has to do with GOVERNMENT transparency - NOT condo openness, which Fl. St. 718 covers.

    From the Attorney General's website:

    Open Government - The "Sunshine" Law
    To assist the public and governmental agencies in understanding the requirements and exemptions to Florida's open government laws, the Attorney General's Office compiles a comprehensive guide known as the Government-in-the-Sunshine manual. The manual is published each year at no taxpayer expense by the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee.
    Florida began its tradition of openness back in 1909 with the passage of Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes or the “Public Records Law.” This law provides that any records made or received by any public agency in the course of its official business are available for inspection, unless specifically exempted by the Florida Legislature. Over the years, the definition of what constitutes “public records” has come to include not just traditional written documents such as papers, maps and books, but also tapes, photographs, film, sound recordings and records stored in computers.
    Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine Law was enacted in 1967. Today, the Sunshine Law regarding open government can be found in Chapter 286 of the Florida Statutes. These statutes establish a basic right of access to most meetings of boards, commissions and other governing bodies of state and local governmental agencies or authorities.
    Throughout the history of Florida's open government, its courts have consistently supported the public's right of access to governmental meetings and records. As such, they also have been defining and redefining what a public record is and who is covered under the open meetings law. One area of public concern was whether or not the Legislature was covered under the open meetings requirements. To address that concern, a Constitutional amendment was passed overwhelmingly by the voters in 1990 providing for open meetings in the legislative branch of government.
    The Attorney General's Office has consistently sought to safeguard Florida's pioneering Government-in-the-Sunshine laws. Our attorneys have worked, both in the courtroom and out, to halt public records violations. In 1991, a decision by the Florida Supreme Court raised questions which made it clear that the best way to ensure the public's right of access to all three branches of government was to secure that right through the Florida Constitution. The Attorney General's Office then drafted a definitive constitutional amendment, which guaranteed continued openness in the state's government and reaffirmed the application of open government to the legislative branch and expanded it to the judiciary. This amendment passed in 1992.


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