American Institute of Parliamentarians: Misuse of motion to Table during Antioch School Board meeting

Robert’s Rules of Order Motions Chart in order of precedence. From

Former City Clerk Simonsen says “temporarily” tabling item can be for up to six months

By Allen Payton

Sometimes elected officials and have been in Antioch and elsewhere for years.

In an email to the Herald, the secretary of the American Institute of Parliamentarians, Atul Kapur pointed out that the Antioch School Board, during their special meeting this past Thursday, misused the motion to Table for the two agenda items. Instead, he argues, the board should have used a motion to Postpone to a Time Certain. That’s because a timeframe of 60 days was added to the motion. (See related article)

Furthermore, while a motion to Lay on the Table is not debatable, no further discussion can be held once the motion is made, and there can be no interruption, Kapur explains that a motion to Postpone to a Time Certain is both debatable and amendable. On a side note, a motion to Lay on the Table takes precedence over a motion to Postpone to a Time Certain, as is provided in the graphic, above.

Kapur’s email, with the subject line “Misuse of Table at Antioch school board meeting,” reads:

“Mr. Payton,

In your article on the special meeting of the school board, you refer to the board using the motion Lay on the Table. Unfortunately, it appears that the motion was misused, when the motion to Postpone to a Certain Time was intended.

The motion to Lay on the Table is used “to lay the pending question aside temporarily when something else of immediate urgency has arisen or when something else needs to be addressed before consideration of the pending question is resumed.” RONR (12th ed.) 17:1

That paragraph goes on to state that there is no set time to take up the motion that is laid on the table. It also states that this motion is commonly misused.

The difference is important because the proper motion, Postpone to a Certain Time, is both debatable and amendable while the motion Lay on the Table is neither.

Happy to discuss further if you find that would be useful.

Atul Kapur, MD, CPP-T, PRP

Secretary, American Institute of Parliamentarians

Certified Professional Parliamentarian and

Teacher of Parliamentary Procedure

Professional Registered Parliamentarian”

UPDATE: Former City Clerk Simonsen Weighs In

However, according to former Antioch City Clerk Arne Simonsen, who earned the title of Master Municipal Clerk, “It was okay to use the Motion to Table which is not debatable.  It could be brought back later. But they could have gone the other route as was noted in the communication you received.”

Asked if a motion to Lay on the Table – which Kapur argues is only to be used temporarily – be done indefinitely, Simonsen responded, “it is often used to ‘kill’ an item, like the legislature putting a bill in the Suspense File. The definition of temporary is up for debate. But temporary is normally considered to be up to six months.”

Therefore, Trust Mary Rocha’s motion to table without including a date certain was allowable and any further interruption, debate or discussion should have been stopped by Board President Ellie Householder, and the substitute motion by Trustee Antonio Hernandez should have not been considered or voted on. Yet, once Rocha added the 60-day timeframe, the motion should have been changed to a motion to Postpone to a Time Certain.


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