Sunday, July 1, 2012

Meetings & Procedure of the ACM (WA Branch) Inc

It is important for a member to know how you’re ACM is run, its objects (this term may look like a grammatical error but this is the language of the rules) how you can challenge a rule, how rules or objects can be changed and more importantly keeping the ACM transparent and accountable.
The ACM WA Branch Inc is incorporated through the Associations Incorporation Act 1987 (WA).  Although WA is incorporated within its own right it follows the objects and rules of the National ACM as do all the states and territories. The technical difference is that most ACM Branches are incorporated within their own State or Territory and each have State Associations Incorporation Act. National ACM are governed by the National Constitution and the  Associations Incorporation Act 1991 (ACT). All the states generally follow the same set of model rules provided by the legislation; each state may have slight variations. All states and territories pay a capitation fee to National ACM (that will be another blog).
The information within this blog is not meant as any legal advice, please if you have issues with your association talk to them about the problem or lodge a dispute or seek legal advice from a legal practitioner. The information here is particularly re WA ACM Branch and is referenced from the Dept of Commerce (WA) Model rules for incorporated associations and the WA ACM Constitution. 

All associations must have a set of rules these rules are referred to as the constitution. The ACM WA Branch and National ACM is operated and governed by its rules (the constitution), the day to day running of an association is usually covered by a governance charter (yet to be formally accepted). The WA Branch constitution states “Manage the branch and its affairs in accordance with the ACM National Governance Charter”.

Therefore if you do not abide by the rules of the association you will be in breach of the Act and could be breaking the law. Any changes to the rules must be made by Special Resolution of the members of the ACM and must be lodged with the Dept of Commerce. This in effect means if it is not a rule within the constitution it cannot happen therefore you can challenge the event and if you are still dissatisfied then you need to refer to the legislation (both the Act and the Regulations) and seek legal advice.
A constitution / rules outlines the following: Name of Association (ACM WA Branch Inc): Definitions of terms used: Objects of Association (the rules): Grievances and disputes, roles of committee members, changing the rules etc.

It is important to know how elections are held and how committee/board members are elected; the terms of office of committee/board members, how positions will become vacant, how you fill vacant positions and the quorum and procedure at meetings of the committee. It is important for associations to keep up-to-date records and members of the association are at liberty to inspect and check records of the association. All elections must be recorded and members have the right to see how this process occurred. Overall the role of the committee/board is to manage the association in accordance with the purpose and rules of the ACM. In undertaking this role, the committee must fulfil a number of legal responsibilities, which ensures the ACM complies with its obligations under the Act.
This in effect means that committee/board members act in good faith and in the best interest of the ACM, make proper use of their position, avoid any conflicts of interest and exercise powers in agreement with the rules of the ACM.

It is very important to remember that a committee/board member cannot claim in the event of a problem or legal dispute that ‘they did not know’ about the rules and activities of the association.
Meeting procedures: You probably all know this, but here is a refresher: First you have to receive notice and an agenda of the meeting. The agenda informs the members of what is to be discussed and done at the meeting. If members are notified of the business to be conducted at the meeting, then the meeting must be confined to dealing with those particular matters. As a member of the ACM you want to know how the business is conducted how decisions are made, resolutions adopted, who was responsible for its implementation, when decisions are made, who reviews them and who should be notified of the decision etc..... In addition minutes are essential particularly when resolutions are made and elections are conducted....all meetings have minutes that are confirmed and signed by the President. Usually the minutes must be completed within 30 days after the holding of each general meeting, this is essential for good governance and transparency.

Notice: The Act requires that adequate notice of association meetings and special resolutions be given to all members, and that notice periods be specified in the rules of the association.....therefore if you require a rule to be changed (a special resolution is required), therefore for WA Branch 14 days notice is required.... and 21 days notice for an annual general meeting.... our AGM is usually anywhere between Sept – Oct.
Voting rights: each member gets one vote..... This also applies to committee/board meetings... when voting on resolutions etc.... the constitution sets out the voting process, if something occurs out of the ordinary and the answer is not in the constitution the default rule is the model rules or the legislation (Act), if it is not in there, then the status quo remains until resolved by seeking legal advice or the rules are changed by special resolution (the membership is consulted and votes on the constitutional changes). Minutes must be kept when voting occurs, the minutes must reflect who was nominated and how many votes they received, all the membership is entitled to know this information and can request the minutes as part of an open and transparent process. If the vote is tied, then the status quo remains, until the next election and this too is reflected in the minutes.

Disputes and mediation – a grievance procedure is essential... for WA members when a dispute is lodged, it is important that a meeting is set to discuss the matter in dispute, and if possible resolve the dispute within 14 days after the dispute comes to the attention of all the parties. If the parties are unable to resolve the dispute at the meeting or if a party does not attend, then the parties must meet within 10 days and hold a meeting with a mediator.....the mediator does not determine the dispute, and it must be confidential and without prejudice...... if this does not work then you may need to seek legal advice.

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