Contracts FAQ 17

Do municipal officers, such as the mayor, city attorney, chief of police or municipal employees such as administrator, director of public works or village engineer have authority, without approval of the governing body, to enter into a contract binding the municipality?

No. The contract authority of a municipality is vested in its governing body and only the governing body or an officer or employee authorized by it to enter into a contract on behalf of the municipality, may enter into a contract binding the municipality. See Kocinski v. Home Insurance Company, 154 Wis.2d 621, 452 N.W.2d 360 (1990) (city attorney cannot make valid contract on behalf of city unless he has prior authority from the common council to do so); Probst v. City of Menasha, 245 Wis. 90, 95, 13 N.W.2d 504 (1944) (city engineer lacked authority to modify city construction contract); 10 MCQUILLIN MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS, sec. 29.15 (3d ed. 1999); League Legal Opinion Contracts 361. Accordingly, a municipal official or employee cannot bind a municipality to an agreement or other contract without the express authorization of the municipal governing body.