Knowledgebase-Volunteer Fireman Aspiring to Serve on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen

Information Product

Title:Volunteer Fireman Aspiring to Serve on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen
Summary:MTAS was asked to clarify whether or not an employee, including a volunteer fireman, can serve on the board of mayor and aldermen.
Original Author:Darden, Ron
Product Create Date:03/15/2007
Last Reviewed on::03/19/2010
Subject:City council; Fire--Volunteer organizations; Boards
Original Document: Volunteer Fireman Aspiring to Serve on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.pdf

Reference Documents:

Text of Document: March 15, 2007

Honorable James R. Martin, Mayor
City of Centerville
P.O. Box 35
Centerville, Tennessee 37033

Dear Mayor Martin

MTAS has been asked to clarify whether or not an employee, including a volunteer fireman, can serve on the board of mayor and aldermen. This issue came up recently during the board orientation program that I conducted.

First of all, according to the Internal Revenue Service, volunteer firemen, who receive compensation in whatever form from the city, are part-time employees.

It is not good public policy for municipal employees to serve on the board of mayor and aldermen for the following reasons:

1. The board sets personnel policies and procedures that apply to all city employees. These policies include vacation allowances, sick leave benefits, holidays and other employee benefits

2. The board develops and approves the annual budget that includes compensation and benefits for employees.

3. Operating policies and procedures are approved by the board and the affect employees.

4. Departmental employees, who become board members, often promote the interests of their department above the interests of other departments. In many instances the departmental interest of the employee, may be at the expense of greater community needs. A board member should be more than an advocate for his/her department or as an employee.

5. Union representation is becoming more of an issue in Tennessee cities. An employee should not participate in the development of such policy issues by the board of mayor and aldermen.

Some employees, who aspire to a seat on the city board, explain that they will not vote on issues where there is a potential conflict. As you can see from the examples outlined above, there are many policy making decisions that would present a potential conflict for such an employee. When a board member refrains from policy discussions or voting because of a perceived conflict, the public’s representative is not at the table representing the interests of his constituency. He is in the position of being unable to effectively represent the interests of those whom he serves because of his employment status.

Although MTAS does not recommend that employees be allowed to serve on the board of mayor and aldermen, TCA 7-51-1501 provides that cities may by ordinance permit employees to serve on the city policy making board. In my opinion, allowing an employee to serve on the city board is not a proper role and it presents the potential for policy making conflicts with the employee’s status as an employee. I have attached a copy of TCA 7-51-1501 for your review.

Please call me if you have questions or comments. Thank you for consulting with MTAS.

Respectfully Yours

Ron Darden
Municipal Management Consultant

Title 7. Consolidated Governments--Governmental and Proprietary Functions
Local Government Functions

Chapter 51.
Miscellaneous Governmental and Proprietary Functions

Part 15.
Employees' Political Freedoms (Refs & Annos)

7-51-1501. Local governmental units; employees' right to political activity

Notwithstanding the provisions of any county, municipal, metropolitan, or other local governmental charter to the contrary, and notwithstanding the provisions of any resolution or ordinance adopted by any such county, municipality or other local governmental unit to the contrary, every employee of every such local governmental unit shall enjoy the same rights of other citizens of Tennessee to be a candidate for any state or local political office, the right to participate in political activities by supporting or opposing political parties, political candidates, and petitions to governmental entities; provided, further, the city, county, municipal, metropolitan or other local government is not required to pay the employee's salary for work not performed for the governmental entity; and provided, further, that unless otherwise authorized by law or local ordinance, an employee of a municipal government or of a metropolitan government shall not be qualified to run for elected office in the local governing body of such local governmental unit in which the employee is employed.