Enough Decision-Makers: “Quorum”
Because of the often-collective nature of public agency decision-making, the concept of a quorum is important. A quorum is the number of members of a decision-making body who must be present in order for the body to conduct business and make decisions.
Typically a quorum is a majority of the decision-making body.
If there are not enough members present – thus, meaning that a quorum is not present – the meeting must adjourn and be rescheduled to a time when a quorum is present.
This keeps decisions from being made by too few people. If for some reason a decision-making body makes a decision without a quorum, the decision is legally invalid.
Separate from the issue of whether a quorum is present is the issue of how many votes it takes to approve an action. In some instances, an action requires a specific number of “yes” votes beyond a majority of the quorum in order to be approved. Staff typically alerts decision-makers when this is the case.
Another issue is whether an official, although present, is allowed to participate in the decision. For example, a council member or county supervisor may be at the meeting, but cannot be counted toward the quorum for a particular item because he or she must step aside from the decision-making process due to a disqualifying conflict of interest.