One Can Dream

Return to the Secretary's Chronicles

Date: July 6, 2006
From: Teresa Torres
To: ICOIL Council Members
Re: Non compliance with the ADA, Abuse of Robert’s Rules of Order and Privilege

This serves as a formal complaint, which I wish to have entered into the record at the next regular meeting, and for I request an official response be generated within the next 10 business days.

For the past several months, I have made the same request for reasonable accommodation as has been made over the past six years – for an audio loop. But this time the request was not ‘just’ as a member of the public – a category which has repeatedly denigrated by various council members – but as a member of the council. In either case, and despite the fact that Indiana’s open door law still does not address the need for reasonable accommodation other than physical access, this request falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Just a few days before the most recent ICOIL meeting, the acting chair notified me that the only thing available for my use would be a personal listening device.

I informed her by e-mail and then twice in person on the morning of the meeting that while I appreciated the effort, due to the nature of my hearing impairment that type of device did not improve my ability to hear clearly in a large room, and that I would likely have to ask people to repeat their comments from time to time. She told me that would not be a problem.

During the meeting, Teresa Mager read very quickly a very lengthy list of questions and concerns, of which I received a copy after she began. It was very difficult to understand all of her words, and hard to track whether or not she was reading from the document .

When I attempted to get clarification, she asked me to hold my questions until the end, and I agreed to do so. However, as I attempted to speak someone called out ‘call for the question.’

Since it was not clear to me exactly what was being voted on – the by-laws that had sent by e-mail or a version which included changes that addressed the list she had read – and felt that I was not the only person present who was unclear, I said that I had a point of order.

According to Robert’s Rules of Order, anyone making a point of order is supposed to be able to state their point, and the only person who can determine whether or not the point has merit is the chair. However, in this case it was not the chair, but other individuals, who made the decision that a call to the question had precedence over a point of order. Melissa Madill said that if there was a 2/3 vote, the chair had to call for the question.

A 2/3 vote is in fact required should there be an appeal to the chair’s ruling re: a point of order. However, the point was not allowed to be made, the chair made no ruling, there was no appeal and no vote was taken.

Further, calling for the question is only supposed to happen when the discussion has exceeded reasonable limits. In this instance, discussion about matters of great importance took place for about 3 minutes, during which one council member attempted to make a point of order and another indicated extreme discomfort in what was happening.

Even more ironic is the fact that almost immediately after a remark was made about the potential for abusing parliamentary procedure, the person making the remark told the chair that she had to honor the call for the question, which she did not, rather than making a point of order, which is what would have been called for if in fact she felt that the meeting was not proceeding appropriately.

What is even more unfortunate is the fact that individuals would attempt, however incorrectly, to invoke Robert’s Rules only for that short period of time during which it served their purpose to do so. It should be noted that there has been no shared training with respect to the form of Parliamentary procedures which would govern the council’s operation, nor did everyone have access to the written ‘cheat sheet’ from which Ms. Madill read at those points in the meeting when she took control of the meeting from the chair.

It is sadly obvious that a few individuals decided prior to the meeting that no questions would be tolerated, especially from someone they don’t happen to like very much because she knows where all of bodies are buried and won’t let the dead lie. In this instance, your actions weren’t just inappropriate, they were illegal.

Popularity contests are for adolescents, not true advocates. Inquiring minds want to know when there will be an open, honest discussion about the true reasons for ramming through by-laws that give total authority to a handful of individuals who do not need to justify acting in place of the council.

Thank you in advance for a prompt official response, which will help us to determine our next course of action specific to the concerns identified herein.

Return to the Secretary's Chronicles