Compatibility of Offices FAQ 1
Can a member of a municipality’s governing body hold another office or position of employment with the municipality?
With a few limited exceptions, the answer is no. The law prohibits the same person from holding two public offices or an office and a position where one post is superior to the other or where, from a public policy perspective, it is improper for the same person to hold both. Otradovec v. City of Green Bay, 118 Wis. 2d 393, 347 N.W.2d 614 (Ct. App. 1984). In Otradovec, the court of appeals held that the office of alderman was incompatible with the position of appraiser in the city assessor’s office because the alderman could vote on the contracts setting the terms of his employment and could vote on the appointment of his boss, the assessor. The court held that abstention would not cure the conflict. Id.
Thus, the general rule is that a governing body member cannot hold another municipal office or position unless it is specifically authorized by statute. This is because the governing body exercises control over such matters as the salaries, duties and removal or discipline of most other municipal officers and employees. Even where a department is under the control of a board or a commission, like the police and fire commission or a utility commission, the governing body still exercises budgetary and general supervisory control over the departments and appoints board or commission members. Compatibility of Offices 583.
There are a few statutory exceptions which should be noted.
- Governing body members may represent the governing body on city, village or town boards and commissions where no additional compensation other than a per diem, if one is paid to other board or commission members, is paid such representatives. Wis. Stat. § 66.0501(2).
- A volunteer fire fighter, emergency medical services practitioner, or emergency medical responder in a city, village or town whose annual compensation from one or more of those positions, including fringe benefits, does not exceed $25,000, if the city, village or town has a population of 5,000 or less, or $15,000 if the population is more than 5,000, may also hold an elected office in that city, village or town. Wis. Stat. § 66.0501(4)(a).
- Pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 61.327, village trustees may also serve as a village employee and be paid an hourly wage, so long as the wages do not exceed $15,000 each year. Amounts paid under § 61.327 may be paid in addition to any amount that an individual receives under § 61.32 or as a volunteer fire fighter, emergency medical services practitioner, or emergency medical responder under § 66.0501(4)(a). IMPORTANT NOTE: While Wis. Stat. § 61.327 addresses the compatibility issues related to a trustee serving as a village employee, the law does not do anything to preclude violation of Wis. Stat. § 946.13 if public contracts in which a trustee has a private interest cumulatively exceed $15,000 in a year.
- A local public official, as defined in Wis. Stat § 19.42(7x), may serve as an election official appointed under Wis. Stat. § 7.03(2)(a) and be compensated for that service, as provided under § 7.03. Wis. Stat. § 66.0501(4)(b). However, the official may not be a candidate for any office to be voted for at an election at which they serve.
- A member of a governing body may also serve as county supervisor. Wis. Stat. § 59.10(4).