Just before Easter, a non-Rotarian after reading one of my posts and Ken Jaskot’s comments, asked the question,”Can a Rotarian be excommunicated?” Although the question is expressed in religious terms, I did wonder if a Rotarian can be expelled or membership revoked.
What I discovered was that Rotary’s Constitution, By-laws and Manual of Procedure speak mainly to the termination of a club.
Although the following three clauses speak to clubs, it is the actions of an individual wherein lies the solution to the club’s threatened termination.
The following three clauses are from the Manual of Procedure 2016 pages 19-20:
3.030.4. Termination for Legal Action.
The board may suspend or terminate the membership of any club that initiates or maintains, or retains in its membership an individual who initiates or maintains, litigation against RI or The Rotary Foundation, including their directors, trustees, officers, and employees, prior to exhausting all remedies provided for in the constitutional documents.
3.030.5. Suspension or Termination for Failure to Comply with Youth Protection Laws.
The board may suspend or terminate the membership of a club that fails to appropriately address any allegations made against one of its members in connection with Rotary-related youth programs for violation of applicable law regarding the protection of youth.
3.030.3. Suspension or Termination for Failure to Comply with Foundation Stewardship Policies.
The board may suspend or terminate the membership of any club that retains in its membership any person who has misused funds from The Rotary Foundation or who otherwise has breached the stewardship policies of The Rotary Foundation.
Interestingly, I can find nothing that tells me exactly how a club terminates a membership. Can the club’s executive or board of director’s do it? Is a simple majority sufficient or does it require a larger majority? Does it require a vote of the membership? Is an appeal by the member of the club’s action permitted? Is their a recommended process to follow to terminate a member? Is a member permitted to have legal counsel present if the board is considering termination of membership? If a member brings a legal action against a club for wrongful termination does that count as part of 3.030.4?
(See the UPDATE below for an answer to some of these questions.)
Is restitution by a member sufficient to prevent a club’s termination? If a member is suspended in 3.030.4 and found not-guilty in a court of law is it still possible to suspend the member, because the burden of proof is not as great?
Nowhere does it appear that suspension or termination need occur if a club fails to terminate a member convicted of a serious criminal offence.
Does anyone else think it strange that the Model Club Consitution provided by Rotary does not provide any guidance? (The Model I referred to really did not have this section)
Thanks to Bill Phillips for directing me to the appropriate resource titled The Standard Rotary Club Constitution
The relevant section is Article 15: Sections 5, 6, and 7
“Section 5 — Termination Other Causes.(a) Good Cause. The board may terminate the membership of any member who ceases to have the qualifications for membership in this club or for any good cause by a vote of not less than two-thirds of the board members present and voting, at a meeting called for that purpose. The guiding principles for this meeting shall be article 10, section 1; The Four-Way Test; and the high ethical standards that one should hold as a Rotary club member.
(b) Notice. Prior to taking any action under subsection (a) of this section, the member shall be given at least ten (10) days’ written notice of such pending action and an opportunity to submit a written answer to the board. The member shall have the right to appear before the board to state the member’s case. Notice shall be by personal delivery or by registered letter to the member’s last known address.
(c) Filling Classification. When the board has terminated the membership of a
member as provided for in this section, this club shall not elect a new member
under the former member’s classification until the time for hearing any appeal has expired and the decision of this club or of the arbitrators has been announced. However, this provision shall not apply if, by election of a new member, the number of members under the said classification would remain within provided limitations even if the board’s decision regarding termination is reversed.
Section 6 — Right to Appeal, Mediate or Arbitrate Termination.
(a) Notice. Within seven (7) days after the date of the board’s decision to terminate or suspend membership, the secretary shall give written notice of the decision to the member. Within fourteen (14) days after the date of the notice, the member may give written notice to the secretary of the intention to appeal to the club, request mediation, or to arbitrate as provided in article 19.
(b) Date for Hearing of Appeal. In the event of an appeal, the board shall set a date for the hearing of the appeal at a regular club meeting to be held within twenty-one (21) days after receipt of the notice of appeal. At least five (5) days’ written notice of the meeting and its special business shall be given to every member. Only members shall be present when the appeal is heard.
(c) Mediation or Arbitration. The procedure utilized for mediation or arbitration shall be as provided in article 19.
(d) Appeal. If an appeal is taken, the action of the club shall be final and binding on all parties and shall not be subject to arbitration.
(e) Decision of Arbitrators or Umpire. If arbitration is requested, the decision reached by the arbitrators or, if they disagree, by the umpire shall be final and binding on all parties and shall not be subject to appeal.
(f) Unsuccessful Mediation. If mediation is requested but is unsuccessful, the member may appeal to the club or arbitrate as provided in subsection (a) of this ection.
Section 7 — Board Action Final. Board action shall be final if no appeal to this club is taken and no arbitration is requested.
This is also important in light of the context within which the “excommunication” question was raised.
Article 16 Community, National, and International Affairs
Section 1 — Proper Subjects. The merits of any public question involving the general welfare of the community, the nation, and the world are of concern to the members of this club and shall be proper subjects of fair and informed study and discussion at a club meeting for the enlightenment of its members in forming their individual opinions.
However, this club shall not express an opinion on any pending controversial public measure.
Section 2 — No Endorsements. This club shall not endorse or recommend any candidate for public office and shall not discuss at any club meeting the merits or demerits of any such candidate.
Section 3 — Non-Political.
(a) Resolutions and Opinions. This club shall neither adopt nor circulate resolutions or opinions, and shall not take action dealing with world affairs or international policies of a political nature.
(b) Appeals. This club shall not direct appeals to clubs, peoples, or governments, or circulate letters, speeches, or proposed plans for the solution of specific international problems of a political nature.
In light of my recent plea to find a non-political means to assist the MSD students to make schools a safe and peaceful location free of gun violence Article 16, Section1 makes it very clear that the topic is a legitimate topic for discussion at a club meeting.
Hence, it is my opinion that Article 16 Section 1 makes a political topic on a Discussion forum such as this LinkedIn group or a FaceBook page a legitimate topic.
Sections 3 (a) and (b) prevent a club from advocating for solutions to a problem but it does not prevent one or a group of Rotarians from doing so as long as the appeal cannot be construed as a Club endorsement.
I still think there are grey areas outside of 3 (a) & (b). For example, a club sponsors a Rotary Peace Scholar to advise a young group such as the MSD students on how to handle provocations in a peaceful manner. I would not classify such counsel as a prohibited action.