Rules for Missouri Fourth-Class Cities
Parenthetical numbers in the text refer to sections of the current Revised Statutes of Missouri, abbreviated as RSMo.
The general charge
The mayor "shall have a seat in and preside over the board of aldermen" (79.120), but only votes to break a tie. The mayor may not preside over, nor vote when he or she has a personal interest in the issue under debate. Jointly, the mayor and board have "care, management and control of the city and its finances" and may adopt such ordinances "as they shall deem expedient for the good government of the city, the preservation of peace and good order, the benefit of trade and commerce and the health of the inhabitants thereof" so long as the state constitution or laws authorize it (79.110).
The mayor is to communicate with the board "from time to time" on how to improve the finances, police, health, security, ornament, comfort and general prosperity of the city (79.210). The mayor also signs all commissions and appointments and approves all official bonds unless an ordinance otherwise prescribes (79.190).
Statutes direct the mayor to "be active and vigilant in enforcing all laws and ordinances for the government of the city" and to promptly deal with any neglect or violation of duty by a subordinate (79.200). The mayor is authorized, should it be necessary, to call on "every male inhabitant" older than 18 to aid in enforcement of laws and ordinances.
Remissions and pardons
Fourth-class city mayors maintain pardon and remission power at the city level equal to that of the governor at state level and the U.S. President at national level. The mayor can remit fines or forfeitures ordered by the municipal court and pardon or grant reprieve to ordinance violations. This authorization doesn't permit the mayor to waive court costs or other costs of bringing the charge (79.220).
The presiding duty
Perhaps the most important single duty of the mayor is presiding at meetings of the board of aldermen, which requires a lot of advance preparation.
It's key to prepare each meeting's agenda in advance. Because the notice of each meeting must include a tentative agenda, procedures must be in place for preparing the agenda. A well-organized city clerk can be a resource here. Rules of procedure should specify who may submit items for the agenda and a deadline for submission. Allow enough time that matters can be sorted and put into workable order before the agenda is posted.
The clerk should call roll at the beginning of each meeting. Roll call allows for official documentation in the minutes that a quorum is present and reminds aldermen they are now acting in an official capacity.
It also gives the meeting a formal start. During the meeting, the mayor and clerk can encourage the board to stay on task when moving through the agenda, making meetings more productive (and shorter!).
Some tips for presiding
The chair does the recognizing — deciding who speaks and in what order. It's important to be fair in this role. Rules for discussion need to be established before the discussion begins; it's too late once deliberation starts. Only board members should discuss the motion under consideration, unless the board agrees that outside expertise is necessary. The mayor participates depending on past precedent and what current officials decide.
- A motion failing to draw a second dies.
- A motion to table must be addressed immediately. If tabled, discussion ends.
- A motion to reconsider (vote again on a motion that has been decided) can be made only by an alderman who voted with the side who won the first vote.
- A motion to adjourn is a priority motion. Halt the discussion and vote.
When a roll call vote is required, the chair should call each alderman's name slowly so the clerk can properly document the vote in the journal. Improper recording in the journal can invalidate the board's action.
Be very careful when amending begins. Move slowly through the process so that each proposed amendment is written and verified with the member who proposed it. It's important that the aldermen know exactly what they are considering.
Making and removing appointments
Unless the authorizing ordinance specifies otherwise, the mayor names persons to appointive offices of the city. The appointment doesn't become official until the board of aldermen gives its approval. Offices that statutes suggest for such appointment include (79.230) treasurer, city attorney, city assessor, street commissioner and night watchman. Cities can choose to make any of these elective posts. Since statewide reassessment, a city assessor today has little function. Any officer appointed may be removed. The mayor can remove most appointees at will, if a majority of the entire board of aldermen approve. But there are special rules for some. For example, the board of aldermen removes planning commission members, which requires the reason for removal be stated in writing and that it's done after a public hearing (89.320 ).
Removing elected officers
The mayor may remove, for cause shown, any elected officer so long as removal is approved by a majority of all the members of the board of aldermen. Before removal, the officer must be given an opportunity to be heard, along with witnesses, before the board. The aldermen act as a board of impeachment during this hearing. Any elective officer, including the mayor, may be removed by a two-thirds vote of all the board's members. That same majority can remove an appointed officer despite the mayor's disapproval (79.240). The removal statute (79.240) authorizes the board to pass ordinances "regulating the manner of impeachments and removals." Should the city have none, regularizing the procedures by ordinance before they are needed is smart.