August 7, 2018: Village of Bear Lake Proposal One

In spite of the error in language the principle to be decided by Village voters is whether to continue electing the Clerk and Treasurer Officers or convert the positions to paid appointees.

The Pros and Cons have been discussed in a prior post.

Here we will look at the duties, ethics and responsibilities of each position.

This Code of Professional Ethics and Conduct ensures a uniform adherence to the Association’s long-standing policies related to legal, moral and professional standards of conduct. This code also informs the public at large as to how the Association approaches matters involving ethics. The principles set forth in this code will govern the conduct of all members of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks.
Fiduciary Responsibility
A member will exercise prudence and integrity in the management of funds in his/her custody and in all financial transactions for which he/she is responsible and will maintain the safety of monies placed in his/her public trust.
Responsibility as Public Officials
A member will adhere to concepts of effective and efficient local government service being provided by elected and appointed Public Clerks, Deputy Clerks and Election administrators. A member will conduct himself/herself at all times in a manner which serves the public interest and enhances the stature of the profession. A member will uphold the letter and spirit of the law and report violations of the law to the appropriate authorities.
Professional Development
A member will observe professional technical standards and continually strive to acquire knowledge and improve levels of competence in the statutory duties of the Clerk. A member shall encourage colleagues to improve their competence and set an example for those seeking to enter the field of Public Service.
Professional Integrity – Information
A member will respect and protect privileged information. A member will conduct government openly so the public may make informed judgements and hold public officials accountable. A member will be sensitive and responsive to inquiries from the public and the media.
Professional Relationships
A member will maintain the highest ideals of honor, integrity, and objectivity in all professional relationships.
Interactions with Others
Any form of discrimination or harassment that violates policy will not be tolerated. This policy forbids any unwelcome conduct that is based on an individual’s age, race, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, physical or mental disability, legally protected medical condition or association with anyone who has, or is perceived to have, any protected characteristic, or any other basis protected by state, federal or local law.
Conflict of Interest
A member will not seek any favor or accept any personal gains which would influence, or appear to influence, the objectivity or conduct of official duties.
Member Misconduct
The Association will not accept or condone unethical, harassing, or intimidating conduct under any circumstances. A member found by the Board of Directors to be in violation of any provision of this Code of Ethics and Conduct will be expelled from membership for a length of time to be determined by the Board and, if the member holds the designations of Certified Michigan Municipal Clerk, the Board may vote to revoke the designation; Certified Municipal Clerk and or Master Municipal Clerk the Board may request that the International Institute of Municipal Clerks Association revoke the designation. By accepting membership in the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks each member agrees to be bound and governed by this Code of Professional Ethics and Conduct.

Duties of General Law Village Clerk and Treasurer – see the Michigan Municipal League 2015 Handbook for General Law Village Officials. GLV_Handbook_final

Duties of a Village Clerk

The office of clerk is a pivotal one, dealing with vital areas of village operation: records management, finances, and elections. The importance of recording and preserving the official action of the village’s legislative body cannot be overstated. Years from now all that will remain of the village documents will be these records.

Traditionally, the village clerk has been an elected official. The 1998 revision of the GLV Act allows the council, by ordinance subject to referendum, to appoint the clerk (MCL 62.1).

This allows the council to require specific job skills and experience for the position, and makes the clerk accountable to the council. This option was made available so that the council could appoint a clerk who did not live in the village.

Making the office appointed takes away the residency requirement (since the person does not have to be an elector). A sample ordinance to appoint a village clerk is available in Appendix

6. Many of the clerk’s duties may be transferred  to the manager by ordinance. In many villages without a manager, the clerk performs the day-to-day administrative duties.

Keep the corporate seal and all records and documents not entrusted to another officer by the charter. (MCL 64.5)

Serve as clerk of the council, record all proceedings, resolutions, and ordinances. (MCL 64.5)

Countersign and register all licenses. (MCL 64.5)

Make reproductions in accordance with the Media Records Act 1992 PA 116, MCL 24.401-24.403. (MCL 64.5)

Administer oaths and affirmations. (MCL 64.5)

Serve as general accountant. (MCL 64.6, 64.7)

Collect claims against the village, present them to council for allowance and, if allowed, submit check  disbursement authorization to treasurer. (MCL 64.6)

Report tax or money levied, raised or appropriated to treasurer as well as the fund to be credited. (MCL 64.6)

Make complete financial report to council as requested. (MCL 64.8)

The office of clerk can be the most controversial, and perhaps misunderstood, position in a general law village. Several steps can be taken to help resolve some of these issues:

The clerk and council should discuss mutual expectations of the roles and responsibilities of each position. This can lead to cooperation and mutual respect.

Network with other village officials. The Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks offers support for clerks. Help is often just a phone call away. By the same token, offer to assist new clerks in your area who may be having difficulty identifying roles and responsibilities.

Attend educational programs about roles and responsibilities of officials, teamwork, and local government.

Consider appointment of the clerk by the council, as allowed by the 1998 revisions to the charter. The ordinance may establish requirements for specific job skills and experience and make the clerk accountable to the council. It may also provide job security and continuity for this important position.

Duties of a Village Treasurer

Prior to the 1998 revision of the GLV Act, a number of villages amended the general law village charter to provide for the appointment of the treasurer by the council. This allows the council to require specific job skills and experience for the position, and makes the treasurer accountable to the council. This option was made available so that the council could appoint a treasurer who did not live in the village. Making the office appointed takes away the residency requirement (since the person does not have to be an elector). With the 1998 amendments, the village now has the option of  council appointment of the treasurer by ordinance, subject to referendum. A sample ordinance to appoint a village treasurer is available in Appendix 7. Duties of the treasurer may be transferred to the village manager by ordinance. The treasurer:

Has custody of and receives all village money, bonds, mortgages, notes, leases, and evidence of value. (MCL 64.9)

Keeps an account of all receipts and expenditures. (MCL 64.9)

Collects and keeps an account of all taxes and money appropriations, keeping a separate account of each fund. (MCL 64.9)

Performs duties relating to assessing property and levying taxes. (MCL 64.9)

Makes periodic reports to the clerk and council as required by law. (MCL 64.10)

“Words of Wisdom”

The following suggestions have been provided by experienced village officials:

Realize you cannot solve every problem quickly. Looking at problems from the inside lends a different perspective when you are forced to look at all aspects. Village Manager

You have information citizens do not and you are charged with educating as well as listening to citizens. Village Manager

Get involved. Know what is going on. Communicate with other trustees. Review your meeting material prior to the night of the meeting. Trustee

When first elected, listen and observe. Don’t challenge existing staff or practices in public until you have done your homework and know what you are talking about. It boils down to good manners. Often, “jumping the gun” on an issue causes it to be magnified in the media. Clerk

Show respect to other village officials, including those appointed rather than elected. Our clerk and treasurer are now appointed by the council. They are still officials. Don’t treat them like they are your private secretaries. Clerk

Be professional. Don’t turn village issues into personal issues. Communication and cooperation are the key. Trustee

“Chapter by League staff”

To review the Ordinance published by the Village of Bear Lake, to make these positions appointed not elected, see this link.

Note that no employment or qualification sections are included.