Knowledgebase-Bonuses for Board Members

Information Product

Title:Bonuses for Board Members
Summary:MTAS was asked whether city may give board members bonuses.
Original Author:Ashburn, Melissa
Product Create Date:11/18/2002
Last Reviewed on::03/09/2010
Subject:City council; City councilmember; Personnel--Compensation; Boards--Municipal
Type:Legal Opinion
Legal Opinion: Bonuses for Board Members public.doc

Reference Documents:

Text of Document: MEMORANDUM

FROM: Melissa A. Ashburn
Legal Consultant

DATE: November 18, 2002

RE: Inquiry concerning bonuses for board members

You have advised me that the City has inquired as to the manner in which bonuses for board members are determined. In my opinion, bonuses for board members are not legal.

The City Charter, at Section 6-20-204(b)(1) states that the salary of the mayor may not exceed $500 per month, and the salary of each commissioner shall not exceed $450 per month. All increases in salary must be approved by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the members, but may not exceed these limits stated in the charter.

The answer to whether or not bonuses may be given appears in the same section of the Charter, at Section 6-20-204(c)(1):

the salaries of the mayor and commissioners may be established annually by the
board of commissioners at the time of adoption of the annual operating budget;
provided, however, that such salaries shall not be increased or diminished prior
to the end of the term for which such officials were elected.

Although a bonus is considered to be an amount in addition to ones actual salary, it is compensation for a position, and is lumped together with salary when determining the amount of compensation one receives. It is therefore my opinion that this restriction on altering the salary of an elected official during his or her term of office is applicable to prevent the payment of bonuses to officials.

In addition to the Charter, the Tennessee Constitution prevents the passing of any “local or private act” which would alter the salary of a public official prior to the end of the term for which such public official was elected. Article XI, Section 9. The Tennessee Attorney General has opined that this section of the state constitution prevents the passage of any ordinance granting an increase in salary to an official prior to the end of his term. OAG U86-76.

I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if you need anything further.

Please remember that these legal opinions were written based on the facts of a given city at a certain time. The laws referenced in any opinion may have changed or may not be applicable to your city or circumstances.

Always consult with your city attorney or an MTAS consultant before taking any action based on information contained in this database.