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Are the bylaws in a volunteer organization--a garden club--legally binding in the state of Michigan?

Fenton, MI |

A hard working volunteer was told to resign from her garden club OR if she stayed in the club all her coordinator jobs would be taken away. This was done without the consent of the membership as the bylaws state and without due process or being told the reasons. The president of the club would not listen to members who wrote letters/emails or called telling him of their opposition to what had been done. The president would not let any member discuss the situation at regular meetings and canceled a regularly scheduled board meeting because he didn't want it discussed. The president stated at the regular meeting that he did not need to follow the bylaws. What can be done? What can be done to have the president follow the bylaws? Are the bylaws legally binding?

Attorney Answers 3

  1. No one can tell you your rights or obligations under by-laws that he or she cannot read. These cases are highly fact specific. Generally speaking, by-laws should be binding and controlling. There may even be provisions for removal of the president. But no one can say without seeing the documents.

    I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state.

  2. Is the Club Incorporated as a corporation (probably non-profit) ? If it is you need to look at the Michigan Non-profit corporation act.. and the bylaws are legally actionable.. in Court

    If it is not incorporated.. the club may be treated as a partnership. and all the members have votes so the president cannot really act unilaterally..

    The president really needs to explain the reasons if the volunteer will not agree to abide by the Presidents decision..

    This said.. This type of situation a potential lawsuit I(which is your remedy to enforce whatever is legally binding) has the potential to tear the club apart... so it is in the best interests of everyone to resolve the situation as quickly and quitely as possible.. so NEGOGIATE if possible..

    If I can be of additional assistance please feel free to email me at or call me at 248-901-0750. Please also note that I answered this question with general knowlege of the law and with limited disclosure from you, my answer does not create an attorney client relationship and I cannot be held responsible for how you, the asker, use the information I provide.

  3. People often misunderstand that the way to handle an errant officer of a nonprofit is the same as in a for profit-- the BOARD must fire or discipline the officer.

    So contact a board member with this concern, rally a majority on the board, call a meeting to discuss the matter and if the officer won't account for this action, he must be fired.

    If a board of a nonprofit fires an officer and the officer refuses to cooperate, then the board must take immediate legal action in court to secure organizational assets. If the board waffles, the officer may get away with it.

    This is all true of an incorporated nonprofit, but the use of the term bylaws suggests that this is a corporation or at least some sort of entity with a governing board of some kind.

    No legal representation exists by virtue of this answer. Consult your attorney. Licensed to practice law in Indiana and Illinois. Circular 230 Disclosure: any U.S. tax advice contained in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any matters addressed herein.

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