First, I will list the relevant statutes from Maine that I will discuss.

  1. Authority to 3 or more. Words in any statute, charter or ordinance giving authority to 3 or more persons authorize a majority to act when the statute, charter or ordinance does not otherwise specify. Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, a vacancy on an elected or appointed body does not in itself impair the authority of the remaining members to act unless a statute, charter or ordinance expressly prohibits the body from acting during the period of any vacancy and does not in itself affect the validity of any action no matter when taken.

  2. Shall; must; may. "Shall" and "must" are terms of equal weight that indicate a mandatory duty, action or requirement. "May" indicates authorization or permission to act. This subsection applies to laws enacted or language changed by amendment after December 1, 1989.

The following excerpts are but one example of a particular regulatory board (this case, professional land surveyors) that might be affected.

  1. Rules (Title 32, Ch. 141) The board may establish guidelines and rules...

  2. Duties and powers (Title 32, Ch. 141) The board shall administer and enforce this chapter

  3. Meetings; chair; quorum. (Title 32, Ch. 141) The board shall meet at least once a year to conduct its business and to elect a chair. Additional meetings must be held as necessary to conduct the business of the board and may be convened at the call of the chair or a majority of the board members. Four members of the board constitute a quorum.

And finally, since it might be relevant, here is one general rule pertaining to all occupational boards...

  1. Quorum; chair (Title 10 §8010) Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, a majority of the members serving on a board or commission under section 8001, subsection 38 constitutes a quorum. The board or commission shall elect its chair.

I want to know how a vacancy on this board might affect the actions the board can take. Suppose there are only 6 members appointed to the 7 member board for the course of 2 calendar years.

Law #1, which I cited above, almost seems to answer the question in favor of the undermanned boards. However, that law says specifically that where authority is given to a group, then the majority of that group is permitted to act. Law #1 does not say that where a duty is imposed upon a board, that the majority may assume that duty alone. And we see that there is definitely a distinction in law #2. Does that mean, for example, that the whole of the land surveyors board "must" meet at least once per year? Yes or no?

If you're thinking is that we would be lead to an absurd conclusion in thinking the whole of the land surveyor's board would be required to also (as in law #4) "administer and enforce" and that the "obvious" purpose of law #1 was to avoid such a burden, I think it is certainly possible that the board could develop its own bylaws to handle voting procedures during absences. If the board, on day 1, voted to empower a smaller minority to handle certain business, that would effectively be a case where the board had fulfilled its duty through delegation. No?

It is not so important to me that there always 100% of the time be a full board. The important thing to me is that these occupational boards are meant to be filled by a majority of professionals in the field, plus a couple of lay persons for balance. Guess which seats are empty most often? The lay persons. I understand you can't always get people to show up, but if the laws say the board is composed of lay persons too, they ought to show up at least once a year like the law says. That's my take, and I think it provides a little bit of legislative intent to back up that side of the argument.

Case history on this sort of thing is scant, as far as I can see. Again, I reiterate the question...here in Maine, how do you think vacancies on a board impact board actions? And why?

  • It is unclear to me what you are asking. It also sounds like you may be asking for opinions, which are off-topic for Stack Exchanges.
    – feetwet
    Oct 24, 2015 at 20:52
  • Unclear what I am asking? I asked: "How do vacancies on a board affect the validity of meetings?" Emphasis and context: Maine State boards. Also...opinions are permissible in certain contexts. I read the rules. "Some subjective questions are allowed, but “subjective” does not mean “anything goes”. All subjective questions are expected to be constructive. What does that mean? Constructive subjective questions:" inspire answers that explain “why” and “how” tend to have long, not short, answers have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone invite sharing experiences over opinions
    – Mr. A
    Oct 24, 2015 at 21:08

1 Answer 1


Point #1 put simply says that when a decision or action (mandatory or otherwise) is given to 3 or more people then the decision of the majority is binding. For 1 or 2 people the decision must be unanimous.

A quorum is either a) what the boards rules say (point 5) or b) a majority of the board (point 6) whichever is lesser. For the board you detail (7 members 4 for a quorum) the answer is the same either way - 4 members at the meetings make a valid meeting.

If there are 4 or more members on the board, the board can function providing that 4 or more members attend each meeting.

Does that mean, for example, that the whole of the land surveyors board "must" meet at least once per year? Yes or no?

No, there must be one meeting where a quorum is in attendance.

... that would effectively be a case where the board had fulfilled its duty through delegation. No?

Yes, providing that such delegation (in the form of a sub-committee) was a power that the board had.

... but if the laws say the board is composed of lay persons too, they ought to show up at least once a year like the law says.

No, it doesn't. The criteria for appointment to the boards may specify a given number of professionals and lay-persons, however, once appointed they are all board members. There is no legal obligation on a board member to attend board meetings. Obviously, if they don't then they are not very effective board members and will probably not be reappointed but you can't force them to turn up.

  • And are you a legal professional? What force are you giving to what you're saying? Are you saying that what you say is open and shut, or is there potential for an opposing argument to sway the right kind of thinker?
    – Mr. A
    Oct 26, 2015 at 16:53
  • Oh, you want professional legal advice. My rates are $260 AUD per hour, I am based in Australia, I am not licensed to practice in Maine. If you are still interested, let me know.
    – Dale M
    Oct 26, 2015 at 21:43
  • Would it even be legal for you to offer professional legal advice over the internet to me in Maine? What would Maine say about that? What would Australia say about that? I guess I'll just wait to see if I get another answer.
    – Mr. A
    Oct 26, 2015 at 21:52
  • I don't know - that would be the first thing I would check if you hire me.
    – Dale M
    Oct 26, 2015 at 21:53
  • My comments are deliberately facetious. The point is, the answer is offered free of charge and responsibility. I think I'm right. If you are looking to take some action you will need professional, local advice that will cost you money - let me know what they say.
    – Dale M
    Oct 26, 2015 at 22:01

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