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Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)

Original Author: Ashburn, Melissa
Date of Material: 12/20/2002

City council

Unauthorized Raises

Reviewed Date: 05/18/2021
MTAS was asked whether the Board has to honor unauthorized raises.

December 20, 2002

Re: Unauthorized raises

Dear Sir,

You have advised me of a situation which has arisen in your City in which an Alderman appointed as department head granted raises to police officers which were not approved by the Board. As we discussed over the phone, the Board does not have to honor the unauthorized raises, and department heads do not have the authority to unilaterally adjust the compensation of municipal employees.

Although the private act charter for your City is silent on the issue of employee compensation, the Municipal Budget Law of 1982 provides guidance. The law applicable to all municipalities is clear that “no municipality may expend any moneys regardless of their source....except in accordance with a budget ordinance...” T.C.A.§ 6-56-203(1). Therefore, unless the budget adopted by your City provided additional funds for police raises to be awarded during the budgetary year, no raises may be awarded.

Even if the budget reserved an amount of funds for police officer raises, those raises must still be approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Tennessee Courts have long held that agents and officers of municipalities may only exercise that authority which is given them by the legislative body, charter or ordinance. Mayor of Nashville v. Fisher, 1 Shannon’s Cases 345 (1874); Mayor of Nashville v. Toney, 78 Tenn. 643 (1882); Taylor v. Nashville & C.R.R., 6 S.W. 393 (Tenn. 1887). If the Alderman appointed to oversee the police department was not given specific authority by the Board to grant raises to officers, then his actions may be reversed, and the Board has no obligation to approve those raises.

I hope this information is helpful. Please feel free to call me should you have any questions or need further information.

Thank you for consulting with MTAS.


Melissa A. Ashburn
Legal Consultant

Main Document(s):
file Unauthorized Raises public.doc