Are village president and village manager incompatible offices?

A recent Attorney General opinion helps us answer whether one person can serve as both village president and village manager in Michigan.

In Michigan statute, a person cannot hold two offices at the same time that are not compatible with each other. Previous Michigan State University Extension articles have addressed this topic in detail, including here and here. The basics are that offices are incompatible if:

  • One position is subordinate to the other
  • One position is supervisory to the other
  • There is a contract between organizations that both offices represent.

Recently, a Michigan Attorney General opinion answered the question of whether or not the offices of village manager and village president are compatible. The question was brought forward regarding the Village of Howard City, where the president also serves as village manager.

The Village of Howard City is a general law village, meaning the General Law Village Act constitutes the village charter. This act states that the village president is chief executive officer of the village and a voting member of the village council. The Village of Howard City’s Code of Ordinances provides for the office of “village manager” whose responsibilities are to act as the chief administrative officer of the village and perform other duties as listed in the village code and directed by the village council. The village manager serves at the pleasure of the Council and may be removed without cause, per the village code.

In this case, the village manager is subordinate to, and supervised by, the village president, which would seem to make the offices incompatible. However, the Incompatible Public Offices Act allows an exception for a city, village, township or county with a population of less than 40,000 “to authorize a public officer or public employee to perform, with or without compensation, other additional services for the unit of local government.” The Village of Howard City has a population of around 1,800, well below the 40,000 threshold.

Despite the population being well below 40,000, the question is still not answered completely, as the Incompatible Public Offices Act also prohibits activity that is a conflict of interest as outlined in the constitution and state law. The Contracts of Public Servants with Public Entities Act provides that “a public servant shall not be party, directly or indirectly, to any contract between themselves and the public entity of which he or she is an officer or employee.” Again, this would appear to create problems for the Village of Howard City, if not for another exception found in the act. The Contracts Act also states that it does not prohibit public servants of a city, village, township or county with fewer than 25,000 residents from being authorized “to perform, with or without compensation, other additional services for the unit of local government.”

The Attorney General opinion also states that the village ordinance stating that the village president shall, “with the concurrence of four or more Trustees, appoint a village manager,” which would in this case mean the village president violated Michigan common law principle preventing public officers from appointing themselves, is superseded by state law which names the village council as the appointing authority.

So, the opinion states that based on the statutes discussed, the offices of village president and village manager in this case are compatible, because the Village of Howard City’s population of 1,800 meets the requirements for exceptions to the Incompatible Public Offices Act and the Contracts of Public Servants with Public Entities Act.

Those in Michigan State University Extension that focus on Government and Public Policy provide various training programs, which are available to be presented in your county. Contact your local Government and Public Policy educator for more information.

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