Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) must, above all, facilitate or make easy the work of the Council. This requires a few simple and straightforward rules. Too many rules and requirements, in the end, hinder progress.
The group of Chapter Representatives will be known as the Council of Chapters of the Florida Native Plant Society, or the Council for short.
Chapters select one Representative to the Council in any manner consistent with their Bylaws and procedures. The Council urges an annual affirmation of the Chapter Representative by the Chapter, so that good quality representation is maintained and new, emerging, or bright members have an opportunity to represent the Chapter. All new Chapter Representatives will receive a password and introduction to the Council online, so that they can participate in online discussion and voting.
The Council Chair, Vice Chair, and Secretary are known collectively as the Council Officers. They serve the dual roles of being Board Directors and Council Officers to provide an essential link between the Council and the Board. The maximum term in any one Council Office is four consecutive years. Officers must be Chapter Representatives. The Council Officers may, by a consensus of the Officers, create subcommittees and take other action to advance the work and initiatives of the Council. They are entrusted with latitude to do and delegate the work. With this trust comes the responsibility to be transparent and honest and to inform all Chapter Representatives of important developments, including the relevant events of Board meetings.
• The Chair shall represent the Council on the Board and Board Executive Committee.
• The Chair sets the Council meeting agenda and sends it to Chapter Representatives at least 2 weeks prior to a scheduled Council meeting.
• The Chair leads Council meetings to create and maintain a pleasant meeting environment that balances the productive and the playful.
• The Chair communicates with all Society members: Board, Council, and Chapters and models good communication: timeliness, cooperation, and transparency.
• The Chair leads when others lag, becoming directive when necessary to further the Council agenda.
• The Chair pilots the Council Initiatives (see below).
• The Vice Chair shall represent the Council on the Board.
• No Chair is good at everything. The Vice Chair fills the leadership gaps, supports the Chair, and tries to understand and express the group will of the Chapter Representatives.
• The Vice Chair takes half the leadership workload.
• The Vice Chair serves as Chair in her or his absence.
• The Vice Chair is timekeeper during meetings in such a way as to allow the group to get to what is important, but mindful of its agenda. If necessary, the Vice Chair recommends that the group change the agenda to fit within the remaining time available to the group.
• The Secretary shall represent the Council on the Board.
• The Secretary records and publishes on the Council website, a timely record of Council meetings.
• The Secretary takes direction from the Board Treasurer regarding keeping fiscal records for the Council.
• The Secretary provides instructions to facilitate the use of all adopted communication including: an up-to-date list of Chapter Representatives with their preferred email address, their phone number (optional), subcommittee membership and leader, how to initiate and join audio calls and video conference calls, online discussion, and online voting.
• The Secretary monitors, records, and publishes votes and polls with a mind for transparency and fairness. All meeting Motions and elections are recorded and published.
• The Secretary oversees Council entries to the FNPS calendar.
• The Secretary, especially, works with and makes recommendations to the SOP subcommittee to improve Council operations.
The FNPS Board requires a Director from the Council for a Board Quorum and a Director from the Council on the Executive Committee. Unless specified otherwise, the Council of Chapters will be like a Board Committee in its basic relationship to the Board. That is, the Council works with and for the whole organization, under the same Bylaws, and aligned with policies and initiatives established for the whole organization. Its focus may be different from the Board’s reflecting the interests of the Chapters.
All regular meetings of the Council (live or online) shall be scheduled one year in advance. Subcommittee meetings (live and online) are usually posted at least a month in advance. Whether other events and meeting are scheduled a year or a month in advance (to give members sufficient notice) will be a matter of reasonableness depending on the type of event or need for prompt action. Only in unusually urgent cases will one week be sufficient notice.
Election of Officers occurs annually prior to the regular meeting of the Council concurrent with the Society Annual Meeting. The Chair will be elected in odd years; the Vice Chair and Secretary will be elected in even years. A separate vote for each Office (Chair, Vice Chair and Secretary) shall be taken. The highest number of votes from the Chapter Representatives who cast votes determines the election winner; a tie for highest vote requires a runoff.
The Chair shall appoint at least three Chapter Representatives to a nominating committee, whose duty shall be to prepare a slate of at least one, but preferably more than one candidate for each office. No member of a nominating committee shall be nominated for an office. The committee shall send email to Chapter Representatives (by March 15) to announce committee-selected candidates, invite self-nominations, and specify election procedures including the requirements to vote. Chapter Representatives shall be required to: a) be registered on the Society’s Representative Contact information, and b) obtain a Forum password to vote online. The deadline for self-nominations shall be one week (March 22) after this announcement. No person may be nominated without that person's consent. In the spirit of transparency, all nominees and a brief summary of the Council election process will be announced in the Sabal Minor and on the Council website (deadline April 1) including the statement “Chapter Representatives will elect the Council [officer or officers] …”.
When only one candidate is selected by the nominating committee and no Representative self-nominates during the open nomination period (one week), then the unopposed candidate's election is assured. While this assures that the Council will have leadership and representation on the Board for the next two years, a good thing, it may also raise suspicion concerning the fairness of nomination and election procedures. Therefore, it is always preferrable for the nominating committee to propose more than one candidate. Having more than one candidate requires more than one Representative willing to serve in the Council leadership role.
Online Forum voting for Officers shall be open and announced to Chapter Representatives by email one month prior to (April 15) the Society’s Annual Meeting. Voting shall be closed after two weeks (April 29). Voting results shall be announced by email to the Board, Chapter Presidents, and Chapter Representatives at least one week prior to (May 15) the Annual Meeting and at that Meeting.
[Note: All dates specified in the paragraphs above comply with the current Sabal Minor deadline and Annual Meeting dates and should be adjusted proportionately if the Sabal Minor or Annual Meeting dates change in future years.]
The online ballot shall list all candidates for a particular office with voters only permitted to vote for one. An unopposed candidate shall be listed as the only choice and shall be elected regardless of the number of votes cast.
Council votes for reasons other than elections may occur online using this model of sufficient notice to Chapter Representatives by email and a two-week open voting period.
Vacancies in Council Officers shall be filled by appointment by the remaining Officer(s). A majority of Chapter Representatives may (but are not required to) call for an interim online election for the vacant Office including any person appointed and any additional nominees. At least thirty days notice of an interim election is required.
Chapter Representatives are asked to be wise in achieving a balance between, on the one hand: freedom of expression, dissent, individuality, minority opinion, passionate concern, and on the other hand: abuse toward others, disruption of the group process, egregious behavior bringing discredit to the Council or FNPS. A majority of Chapter Representatives may vote to censure a Representative up to and including a request for resignation as Representative.
Council Subcommittees should not mimic Board Committees, but should support work on Council Initiatives (see below). Subcommittees need to be entrusted to prepare recommendations to the Council for their vote. Rather than hammer out details in meetings, the Council should adopt a meeting style that approves, defeats, or returns proposals to subcommittee with recommendations. This style is important to reduce the tedium of meetings and focus discussion on the overall strategies and initiatives.
The Council shall establish conventions for communicating online and provide simple and clear instruction on its website to help Chapter Representatives use them. Statewide online communication is a challenge that requires appropriate software, training and experience to be effective. Training and training aids are essential.
The Council shall annually review its initiatives and establish new or extend current initiatives. The initiatives should be sufficiently different from one another to address different needs. For example, initiatives might be in three categories: 1) something operationally necessary, 2) something to the heart of plant conservation, 3) and something that captures the current interests and excitement of the Chapter Representatives.
Chapters will be encouraged to communicate, cooperate, and coordinate activities and share materials for their mutual benefit. Cooperation among Chapters in proximity may be especially helpful and may take many different forms. Some regions may want to establish times and places to meet together to discuss these shared efforts and, over time, these meetings may become conventions. Sharing success with regional groups or coordinated activities at Council meetings may be part of encouraging them.
A majority of Chapter Representatives has the right to vote to establish, remove, or replace any procedure. Normally, however, the Council should not exercise this right, but rather make recommendation to the subcommittee for improvements in the SOP as needed. The Council may (but is not required to) annually affirm the SOP as written, or make recommendations for procedural improvements.
In other words, let the SOP be evolving and responsive to the operational needs of the Chapter Representatives throughout the year. Entrust the SOP subcommittee (and the other subcommittees as well) to be wise and knowledgeable enough to do the detailed work asked of them, and let the Council as a whole focus on the big picture.
Sample Election Notice, Email Election Announcement (required March 15):
Confirm that dates comply with the Annual Meeting and dates requirements stated in the SOP above.
Dear Chapter Representatives and Chapter Presidents,
Re: Notice the Council slate, opening of self-nominations (March 15-22), and upcoming election for Council [Office or Offices] April 15-29
This is official notice of upcoming Council Elections for Council [Office or Offices] to be held on the Forum online beginning April 15 and ending April 29.
The Nominating Committee is pleased to present [name or names] as candidate[s] for the office of Council [Office]. The Nominating Committee is also pleased to present [name or names] as candidate[s] for the office of Council [2nd Office]. Self-nominees are welcome for both Offices.
Chapter Representatives may self-nominate, but only during the short window of ONE WEEK beginning today, March 15 and closing at midnight on March 22, regardless of whether or when any email was actually received by any Chapter Representative. If any third party wishes to propose a Chapter Representative for this election, the proposed candidate must herself or himself inform the Nominating Committee (reply to the Sender above) within this short window and before the midnight deadline on March 22. This self-nomination window is in lieu of nominations from the floor that typically occur at a live meeting.
CHECK YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS (requires Chapter password)
HAVE OR OBTAIN FORUM ID & PASSWORD
Chapter Representatives must meet the following requirements to vote or to be a candidate for a Council office:
Information about Chapter and Forum ID’s and passwords is available on the Council website (council.fnpschapters.org) under the “How To” tab.
On April 15 the Nominating Committee will send an official email to all then-registered (see item #2 above) Chapter Representatives to announce the opening the Council’s Forum online vote (under the Forum headings: Council of Chapters, Voting) and the closing of this online vote at midnight on April 29.