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Committee Votes

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Hi. I would like to comment on two things. First, the idea that Troop Committees are run as the dictatorship of the Committee Chair and the SM, and second, the idea that SM or ASM's may be excluded from a Troop Committee meeting.

 

DO TROOP COMMITTEES VOTE? OR ARE THEY "RUN" BY FIAT OF THE CC AND/OR SM?

 

I don't usually go "all legal" on everyone, but Bob White and I disagree, as they say in Star Trek, "at the molecular level" on this one.

 

Look at the Troop Committee Guidebook (Pub. 34505B, copyright 1998, BSA).

 

Page 13, Chapter entitled "Troop Committee Organization and Responsibilities". There is a list of 12 items there, and each is the responsibility of the "committee", not the Chairman. Moreover, the chapter begins with the words: "The troop committee is the troop's board of directors...." The idea that a group of people are a board of directors, is what the lawyers call "the express over the general" and means that the example (in all its facets, including how the meeting is run and responsibilities) are incorporated by the use of the example.

 

But look at page 14 and beyond in the chapter. There is a section for each member of the committee, beginning with the Chair. The chair's duties are listed, and not once is there a reference to the Chair making any decision or overruling anyone.

 

Also, the duties of each other member of the committee are listed. Repeatedly, it says that the committee member in that area "reports to the Troop Committee". It never says, not once, any language to the effect of a committee member "reports to the Committee chair."

 

Finally, turn to page 33, the Chapter entitled "Troop Committee Meetings". The introduction makes clear that the "Scoutmaster is not actually a member of the troop committee, and has no vote." Has no vote. Somebody else has a vote. Who? The Committee members.

 

Scouting is not a dictatorship. PLC's run by voting. SPL's are elected by voting. Troop Committee's are not dictatorships either, run by the Chair with no voice by the rest, or as one poster said "you won't need a committee, you just need the chair."

 

But, you know, by cracky, I think Bob is softening on this one, for he wrote above:

 

"The guidelines for spending unit funds are outlined in the Pack Leaders Handbook and the Troop committee Guidebook. In the Troop Committee guide book pg.15 it says under duties for Treasurer: "Handle all troop funds. Pay bills on the recommendation of the Scoutmaster and authorization of the troop committee."

 

"On Pg 23 under Troop Bank Account it says among other tings " An account that requires two signatures on each check, those of the committee Treasurer and Scoutmaster, is recommended. Two sebtences later it says "Disbursements are made on the recommendation of the Scoutmaster and authorization of the troop committee."

 

EXACTLY. Work areas report to the committee, not the chair, and the commmittee makes decisions, changes recommendations, votes when necessary.

 

Do all meetings have to be run by Robert's Rules. Of course not. ARe many decisions made by consensus, of course. But sometimes you vote because there is no consensus, there is genuine, good faith disagreement.

 

What else do chair's do? Well they can authorized expenditures if authorized in advance by the committee. They set the agenda, and they can limit debate. The idea that because the committee may vote when they disagree means that all meetings have to run all night is silly. A strong chair limits both discussion as well as meeting length. We used to have a 60 minute rule, if it wasn't done in 60 minutes, then it rolled over to the next meeting. After someone monopolizes one time, they get a lot more respectful of other's time the next meeting!

 

In my legal practice, I have often had occasion to meet with the boards of various volunteer and non-profit groups. There is an entire body of law on the subject of how such associations (when they are not actually incorporated) operate. I have never found a single one that did not have its primary committee or board run by majority vote.

 

ON THE ISSUE OF WHETHER ANYONE CAN REQUIRE THE SM OR ASM TO BE EXCLUDED FROM A TROOP COMMITTEE MEETING.

 

Regarding the Troop Commmittee it is the rule that the "Scoutmaster is not actually a member of the troop committee, and has no vote." That's found at page 33, the Chapter entitled "Troop Committee Meetings" in the Troop Committee Guidebook (Pub. 34505B, copyright 1998, BSA).

 

Somewhere, in a glaxy far far away, in a time long, long ago, there started a rumor that the sentence fragment, "the Scoutmaster is not actually a member of the troop committee" equals the idea that "the SM or an ASM may be excluded from a Troop Committee meeting." That is not true and it is dangerous.

 

This actually happened in my Troop. I had a parent, who was mad at me (I'm the SM). Why, because he wanted an eagle medal for his son, but didn't see any real reason why that desire should be held up by a "lot of red tape" like actually making his son earn the thing! So, the parent (a lawyer) went to a DE and convinced him that the language "not a member" means that the SM can be excluded. They called a meeting (in my office!) and threw me and all the ASM's out. That was ugly. It got uglier, but that's another story.

 

However, the point here is that I then had a meeting with the DE, his boss and several other folks. I am also a lawyer. I discussed the "no secret organizations" "no secret meetings" rules of the BSA. We soon had agreement that under those rules any parent could attend any troop committee meeting and could not be barred. We then moved on to the idea that there is NO WHERE in any BSA materials that I, the DE, or the other Council level folks could find that day, that allows the exclusion of the SM or an ASM from ANY Troop activity, event or meeting.

 

In fact, the one place that a person might expect to find express authority to exclude a SM from a meeting, actually has an express prohibition against excluding the SM!

 

In the Advancement Committee Policies & Procedures manual, pub 33088C, 1989 copyright, 1999 printing, it says at page 30, in the section discussing an Eagle Board of review (part 9) that: "The candidate's unit leader introduces him to the members of the board of review. The unit leader may remain in the room, but does not participate in the board of review....In no case should a relative or guardian of the candidate atend the review, even as a unit leader."

 

Well, kiss my grits. That is the ONLY place we could find discussing the concept of excluding the SM from anything. And there the SM is expressly allowed to attend a meeting, even over the parent!!!

 

While a SM and ASMs may be kept from voting on an issue in a committee, they may not be excluded, and they may participate in the debate. (The board of review expressly says no vote and no voice, the troop committee guideline says only no vote.)

 

I realize that this was a long response. But I think its bad for scouting when "urban legend" makes people act differently than their instincts tell them they should act. We all naturally want to let everyone have their say. We all naturally protest against shutting anyone out of the room. And we naturally want to have the majority rule. That is in fact how Scouting works too.

 

Yis, jim

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denver4und@aol.com, I agree with much of your post, both the 'legal' aspect and the democratic/self-management spirit behind it.

 

I, too, had a pukey experience with an out-of-control committee, so I can also relate to that.

 

However, I don't think that Bob White is saying the Scoutmaster (SM) and/or Committee Chairman (CC) is/are dictators over the process, but you may wish to observe that the "Scoutmaster is the adult leader responsible for the image and program of the troop" and that he "works directly with the Scouts." (Troop Committee Guidebook, page 9) Further, "the Scoutmaster must be in charge of advancement in the troop." (Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures book, page 25). I mention these items because the adult organization is not entirely a democracy; the boys and the Scoutmaster determine the program, and the committee supports the boys and the Scoutmaster in implementing the program (Committee Guidebook, page 13).

 

My interpretation is that the CC is often a facilitator. The SM discusses troop needs with the CC, and the CC brings that before the committee. The committee then makes it happen from the adult side of the house. You are right, the SM is supposed to be present at the committee meetings. No mention of Assistant Scoutmasters' (ASMs) attendance is made, either present or absent and, you are right, no secret meetings are allowed; anyone can attend. But that doesn't nessarily mean it's good that everyone talks at will.

 

Regarding voting: I am sure that committee members know when a vote is necessary and when it is not. The SM and ASM don't vote-- for good reason. Nor does the SM or the ASMs sit on the Board of Review or vote on it-- also for good reason.

 

The committee oftentimes (but not always) is made up of 'non-technical' adults who are not necessarily familar with Scouting or the technical aspects of it (knots, first aid, advancement, troop organization, etc.). Yet, the committee is the "troop's board of directors" (Committee Guidebook page 13), and "hires" (and, one assumes, with the Charter Organization Representative, "fires") the SM and/or ASM (page 19). Further, the committee has visability into the implementation of the program via the Board of Review (BOR) process, which does not retest the Scout (odd, isn't it? A review but not a retest?), but finds out what kind of experience the Scout is having. This is peculiar: a body without technical skills, that is not supposed to retest the Scout on his technical skills, but is supposed to 'review' the Scout and his experiences. For some, all of this is strange and mysterious.

 

The answer to this mystery is that the committee is like a board of trustees overseeing a college football team. They hire the coach (SM). They can fire the coach (SM). Beyond that, they support the coach (SM)-- they don't micromanage the coach (SM).

 

But, how can they know whether the program is successfully implemented? Especially when the SM and the ASMs are doing most or all of the program implementation, advancement, working directly with the Scouts, etc.? Especially when they are non-technical in all the aspects of Scouting? The Board of Review is one way, and maybe the best way, of letting them know. They don't need to know everything about Scouting to know that a boy is unhappy. As one, um, experienced Scoutmaster put it to me twelve years ago (a completely inexperienced Scoutmaster, and mostly clueless), it's a "sanity check on the Scoutmaster." Rather crude, but to the point.

 

Sorry about being verbose, but the adults are divided into two separate groups, with a strong Scoutmaster and his ASMs on one side and the committee on the other-- working together, to be sure, but each making sure that the program is being run as advertised.(This message has been edited by Compass)

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Aside from what the books say - and I agree with most of what has been said - on the practical side from our troop, the SM is a part of all of our regular committee meetings. Along with reports from the treasurer, equipment person, transportation person, COR, etc, there is also a designated spot on the agenda for a Scoutmaster's report. The SM is expected to keep the committee up-to-date on the activities of the troop, how the troop is running, activity plans of the PLC, etc. We also have an SPL report on the agenda, but it is often difficult for the SPL to make this meeting in addition to troop meetings, PLC meetings, etc., so this report is usually forwarded to the committee by the SM. As an ASM I also attend the meetings.

 

While we both understand that we are "guests", without a vote, the SM provides timely and detailed information regarding the day-to-day operation of the troop (even though we have an "active" committee whose members regularly attend troop meetings). I am considered the "primary ASM" as well as the First-Year Scout Patrol ASM. The reason for me to be at the meetings is in support of the SM and so that I can step in as seamlessly as possible when needed, in his absence. The committee can, and does, listen and give consideration to our comments on various items.

 

Having been in various positions in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Explorers, I think that sometimes we spend too much time tying our hands so tightly with detailed rules that we fail to function effectively or efficiently. The policies, procedures and rules should always be there in the background and be followed when issues arise, but most of the time the boys are much better served by a concerted group effort that allows some wiggle room and a little less formality.

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Denver

 

Thanks for the reference to Troop Committee Guidebook pg 33. This is the only place I have read about a reference to a vote. I always knew that the SM was not a member of the TC but the first sentence on that page states, "The committee meeting is attended by all committee members and the Scoutmaster" and under the suggested meeting agenda, the Scoutmaster is the first report given. So, although not a member of the committee, the Scoutmaster should be present and can not be banned from the meeting.

 

Doug

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Eagle74 writes:

 

"While we both understand that we are "guests", without a vote..."

 

Not quite. We are not guests. We have a right to be present, and a right to speak. That is the point of my discussion above. Its this concept that we are somehow in need of an invitation, which can be revoked that causes problems.

 

Someone else posted a comment about too much formalism. That is also one of my points. We have too many folks who are control freaks and afraid to have discussions among adults about whatever is bothering them, and instead want to either make the discussion moot by eliminating the other point of view, or by silencing the other point of view by eliminating the person.

 

by the way I'm an Eagle68!

 

yis

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Correct! The Scoutmaster should not need an invitation to be present at regular meetings of the committee; rather he should be expected to be there.

 

Then again there are other meetings involving the committee or members of the committee where the Scoutmaster need not be present, is not expected to be present, and at times should not be present. Not that the Scoutmaster should be subverted by a conniving committee, but rather the Scoutmaster does not need to have his finger in every pie the committee bakes. If the Scoutmaster does not have enough trust and confidence in his committee to operate without his presence and the committee does not keep the Scoutmaster up on its doings, there are some serious problems with the organization and its management (and unfortunately this is sometimes the case).

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From my perspective, the SM and his assitants have responsibility for the operational side of the Troop, the SM is analogous to the COO of a company. The committee is like the board or executive committee and exists solely to support the troop's business. Normally the SM and ASMs are not allowed to vote, they are not members of the committee; on the othet hand they are parents (usually) and have an interest in the unit. I've never heard (until now) of a Cub or Scout Committee going into executive or closed session, committee mmeetings should be public and open to all interested parties. That said, their are times when the members of the committee and/or scoutmaster corps must meet in private for specific items related to privacy, discipline or other sensitve matters. The topic you describe should, IMHO, been owned by the Scoutmaster corps not the committee as it was an operational issue.

 

As far as votes or not, I think this is largely a style thing ... I've seen various levels of formality in the units I've been involved with, fortunately no one has pulled a copy of roberts rules out yet.

 

The new training materials for troop committee members are worth a look, but you need to remember that BSA will supply you with nothing but guidelines, there are very few hard and fast rules regarding committee operations.

 

In our troop, I attend the beginning of committee meetings ony as the SM and provide a SM's report that reports on what we have done, what we plan to do and what we need the committee to provide (dollars, consent, other resources). Once I've finished my bit I usually (my hour a week having expired) retire and leace the committee to their business. A previous Scoutmaster attempted to ban ASMs from committee meetings ... in reality what he was looking for was for the SM corps to speak with one voice, we acomplish that now by holding our own meeting adjacent to the PLC and though the delivery of a SM's report to the committee.

 

Hope this helps - YIS

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Being a SM, I don't have a committee vote since I am not offically a committee member. What my role is at committee meetings is to bring the needs of the Troop to the committee and explain these needs. More or less, I am a lobbyist for the Troop! (I hate political stuff!)

 

A joyous New Year to all!

 

Ed Mori

Scoutmaster

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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As the CC and currently 'acting' SM, I have read this thread with equal interest. We follow the BSA guidelines in our troop. The only regret we, the trained members of the troop, is that we can't force the rest of the adults to get trained!!!

 

We have an open forum, but we do 'vote' on major expenditures. Our regular SM and ASM's re encouraged to attend the committee meetings, our SPL or ASPL are required to attend, our parents are encouraged to attend, but the drop off the boy and run to do errands continues UNLESS there is a 'situation/challenge'

 

The key to the whole committee, Junior Leader, Scoutmaster roles, in my humble opinion, is communication, cooperation, and NOT ego. To remember why we do what we do is more important than the technical side of things.

 

The committee secretary and I took our troop to summer camp this year, the SM and ASM's being in a war situation forced the committee to be actively involved in the weekly meetings, in summer camp, and in parental challenges. I have always had the upmost respect for any SM, there are parents that just don't 'get it' or want to 'get it,' and to force one person (SM) to have to justify or answer for everything is assinine! We, the committee, have always taken active roles in keeping the troop working. The best way to know what's needed is to be on hand when it's happening.

To that end, we encourage parents to have a quiet seat in the corner of our meetings and just observe. It can make a difference in understanding and in help to come.

Sharon

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SharonNC,

Welcome to the campfire. Have a cup o coffee & join in the fun!

 

While the BSA doesn't require volunteers to be trained, we do in my Troop. All volunteers are required to attend training. If they don't they are kept on a very short leash until they do. If they never do, they have less authority than a new Boy Scout!

 

Ed Mori

Scoutmaster

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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Our troop requires it of committee members, too, but......."can't get there this weekend, can't go then, I work, I have kids," YOU get the picture.

 

I have begun instituting training into all our meetings, that is I feature a part of the training in every meeting and no one fills a position just for the name of it. They have to fill out the BSA application, read the by-laws, and sign a copy of their 'job description,', bottom line, we've got 16 really active boys and 4 that are trying to 'earn' the Eagle rank by osmosis.

 

Hey, I always have the coffeepot on, it's job requirement isn't it? The boys will tell you, when we camp, the coffeepot is the first thing to go into the trailer. lol

Sharon

T216 CC

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Sharon,

You gotta check out the new coffee pot Coleman just put out. It's a dripper for camp stoves! It works great! We got ours at Costco & it came with two insulated stainless steel mugs! $40 bucks but no more boiled coffee!

 

I've heard the " I've got kids... Can't get the weekend off" excuses many times. I always tell them "I got kids & need my weekends, too. But I made the time - so must you."

 

The short leash routine works well becaues those parents who really want to be involved will find the time. And those are the ones I want.

 

Ed Mori

Scoutmaster

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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SharonNC,

Training committee members does not require a weekend. It takes three troop meetings. At the first one you do New Leader Essentials. At the next two you go through Troop Committee Challenge. Poof...they are are done with Basic Training.

 

Bob White

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