Improperly Written Bylaws Could Lead to Court Actions

Bylaws of nonprofit organizations, including fire departments, must be consistent with state law and be kept up-to-date to factor in the need for change and ensure appropriate safeguards for individual members and the corporation, says the firm of Wolfberg & Wirth, LLC.

Failure to do so, says the firm, could lead to disputes involving the disciplining, suspension, or expulsion of an organization member who may or may not have certain “rights” under the bylaws or state law.

Wolfberg & Wirth refer to incidents that have occurred in New York, Pennsylvania, and other states in which the courts have held that since volunteer fire companies perform a government function, they may not dismiss an individual volunteer member without giving the member notice of the allegations and a full and fair opportunity to be heard. In effect, these courts give to volunteers rights similar to those of a public sector employee. Volunteer members have been reinstated when due process or the bylaws were not followed.

Ambulance associations and fire companies are corporate entities subject to the provisions of their state’s Non-Profit Corporation Law, which, the firm explains, outlines in some cases specific rights and remedies to challenge board or membership action.

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