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It is the duty of the mayor, clerk, and councilmembers to ensure the city fulfills its duties under the law and lawfully exercises its powers.
City officials can sometimes be held personally liable for failing to act or for taking unauthorized actions on the part of the city. To avoid personal-liability lawsuits, city officials should gain a working knowledge of the laws that regulate city government. Whenever there is any doubt about the validity of an action or procedure, city officials should consult their city attorney.
Councilmembers’ statutory duties are to be performed, almost without exception, by the council as a whole. For example, the council, not individual members, must supervise administrative officers, formulate policies, and exercise city powers.
Councilmembers should devote their official time to problems of basic policy and act as liaisons between the city and the general public. Councilmembers should be concerned, not only with the conduct of daily affairs, but also with the future development of the city.
The most important single responsibility of a council member is participation at council meetings. In statutory cities, each councilmember, including the mayor, has full authority to make and second motions, participate in discussions, and vote on every matter before the council.
In a statutory city, any two councilmembers of a five-member council or any three members of a seven-member council may call a special meeting. Care should be exercised to give proper notice, however.
As individuals, council members have no administrative authority. They cannot give orders or otherwise supervise city employees unless specifically directed to do so by the council. The council, however, has complete authority over all administrative affairs in the city. In Plan B cities, this authority is generally restricted to conducting investigations and establishing policies to be performed by the manager.
The major areas of council authority and responsibility are:
As the head of the city, the mayor officially speaks for both the government and the community as a whole. In all statutory cities and in most charter cities, the mayor is the presiding officer and a regular member of the city council. The mayor has all the powers and duties for the office of council member in addition to those of mayor.
In a home rule charter city, the charter spells out the duties and responsibilities of the mayor. Mayors of statutory cities have the following roles:
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The following resources provide additional information about city government in Minnesota: