Quorum, Quorum, Who’s Got a Quorum?

by Becky Dale

The monitoring of public meetings throws open the question of how to count a quorum.

It’s normally easy to know if a quorum exists at a public meeting. You count who’s there. A quorum is usually a majority of members. When a council has seven members, four is a quorum. If four are present, there is a quorum and the council can then transact business. More

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  1. Will Vehrs Avatar

    If monitoring is not defined, who will decide when an issue arises–the courts or some other official?

  2. Becky Dale Avatar

    The votes would be subject to challenge in court.

    I’ve been doing more reading (some long ALR articles on the subject of majorities and abstentions). If a public body doesn’t spell out its rules on the votes needed for passage, the common law rule applies: Assuming there’s a quorum, the vote of a majority of those present and voting suffices for passage. That rule is based on the idea that members abstaining acquiesce with the vote taken. Those abstaining could have voted “no.” But we can’t assume that for monitoring members. They don’t have the choice to vote. The common law rule may not apply; courts would have to decide this. Even in the ordinary cases dealing with abstentions, courts across the country have divided on how the votes should be counted.

    When members abstain because of a conflict of interest, VA’s law says the remaining members may act even though there are less than the number required to act. That applies only for conflict of interest. Note also that the abstaining members are still counted in the total number of members present.

    Best thing for General Assembly to do is strike that line in the bill on monitoring. It’s important that it’s clear who’s present and who’s absent when votes are taken.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Which number controls the determination of a quorum – the total membership (filled AND unfilled seats) or the filled seats? This is important since a determination of a quorum will be different with either situation. If the answer is at common law that a majority of members would equal a quorum, the question here is ‘what are the members?’ – total number on a board or just those who actually hold positions or seats? See how it can get confused a bit? Thanks.

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