Last week I reported that the Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) had narrowly retained his position in a vote at the latest meeting of the NORML Board of Directors in Key West, Florida. On November 28, the NORML Board voted 8-6, with 1 abstention, against a motion filed by the Executive Committee to seek a new executive director.
Through my sources I have learned that NORML’s Executive Director Allen St. Pierre, who is also a member of the NORML Board of Directors, was one of the eight votes against searching for his own replacement.
According to Robert’s Rules of Order, such a vote by a board member on a motion concerning himself is not out of order, but not generally advised for “a sense of delicacy.”
It is a general rule that no one can vote on a question in which he has a direct personal or pecuniary interest. Yet this does not prevent a member from voting for himself for any office or other position, as voting for a delegate or for a member of a committee; nor from voting when other members are included with him in the motion, even though he has a personal or pecuniary interest in the result, as voting on charges preferred against more than one person at a time, or on a resolution to increase the salaries of all the members. If a member could in no case vote on a question affecting himself, it would be impossible for a society to vote to hold a banquet, or for a legislature to vote salaries to members, or for the majority to prevent a small minority from preferring charges against them and suspending or expelling them. By simply including the names of all the members, except those of their own faction, in a resolution preferring charges against them, the minority could get all the power in their own hands, were it not for the fact that in such a case all the members are entitled to vote regardless of their personal interest. A sense of delicacy usually prevents a member from exercising this right of voting in matters affecting himself except where his vote might affect the result.
Not considering St. Pierre’s vote would yield a result of 7-6-1, so the motion to find a new executive still would have failed. Even if the abstaining vote would have supported the motion for a new executive, the resulting 7-7 tie would not carry the motion. A plurality vote cannot carry a motion, meaning that 8 votes would be required to form a majority to remove St. Pierre. However, it is notable that without his own vote, the Executive Director does not have the support of the majority of the NORML Board of Directors.