Rules for Missouri Fourth-Class Cities
Parenthetical numbers in the text refer to sections of the current Revised Statutes of Missouri, abbreviated as RSMo.
Swearing in of officials
All officials must swear in before taking office. Outgoing officials retain authority until incoming officials swear in. A city clerk, county clerk or judge can swear in officials. This is important because it reminds each official that he or she is a public servant, subject to the requirements of this role. The board of aldermen should determine, as part of its rules of procedure, how soon a board meeting should be held following an election. Certified election results are usually available within one week.
The oath for all officials
Before taking office, every officer and assistant "shall take and subscribe to an oath or affirmation" (79.260) before a court of record or the city clerk. The oath is a formal confirmation that the elected or appointed official is qualified for office, that he or she will support the city's ordinances, state laws and the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions, and will "faithfully demean himself while in office." The written oath is filed with the city clerk. Failure to take the oath vacates the office.
Term completion, perpetuity
The city has perpetual existence. This means, in practice, that terms of officials continue until successors are elected or appointed and qualified. Expiration of a term doesn't relieve the official of his or her position until a replacement is elected or appointed and properly sworn in. The statute states repeatedly that officials shall serve until their successors are elected or appointed and qualified.
Vacancies in office
Office vacancies do occur — when no one is elected, when the elected candidate doesn't qualify, when the official dies or relocates, or for whatever reason — and then "the mayor or the person exercising the duties of the mayor" must call a special meeting of the board. The mayor nominates and appoints, with board approval, a replacement to serve until the next municipal election (79.280). If the office of mayor is vacant, any board member may nominate a successor who shall be selected with the consent of a majority of the board and shall serve until the next municipal election. Once the replacement is elected, he or she serves to the end of what would have been the term of the person originally elected to the seat to maintain the rotation. If the vacancy is in an appointive office, the mayor appoints a temporary replacement to serve until a regular board meeting permanently fills the vacancy.
Resigning from a city office requires two things: There must be an offer by the official and acceptance by a quorum. Remember, resignation doesn't relieve the official of responsibility until the quorum accepts the resignation. This is how perpetual existence of the city is maintained. Should resignations threaten the quorum, replacement(s) must be appointed before any more resignations are accepted.
A majority of the aldermen make a quorum, empowered to do city business. If there is no quorum, those present may adjourn the board from day to day or send the marshal or police chief to get a member who is absent.
Abstaining from voting
There are circumstances in which a member must abstain from voting, but this should be kept to a bare minimum. Each member has, by swearing in, made a commitment to represent citizens on all questions. So, unless voting creates a conflict of interest or constitutes nepotism, all members should vote on all issues. When abstaining, the member should leave the room and not participate in pre-vote discussions.
Rules governing meetings
As a public governmental body, the board must comply with Missouri's Sunshine Law regarding meetings, records and votes. (See XI: Meetings, Records and Votes.) The board should also adopt rules of procedure to determine regular time, date and place of meeting; order in which business will be tended; whether public attendees will or will not be permitted to speak and under what limitations; as well as other ‘housekeeping' issues. Rules of procedure allow for well-run meetings and are important to establish early — before an issue draws large numbers of attendees, possibly upset, to a meeting.
Other offices and officials
The board of aldermen may, by ordinance, create additional offices that they feel are necessary for the city's operation. Some of the more unusual offices in fourth-class cities include: mineral water commissioner (in a city with mineral springs), Pepsi-Cola commissioner (in a city that operated a bottling plant) and chimney inspector (in a city that experienced several flue fires). More common offices include: economic development director, code administrator, emergency coordinator, health officer, airport director, cemetery sexton and parks and recreation director. Each additional office should have its own ordinance that includes:
- Requirements for the position
- Method of selection
- Goals of the operation (could be in the ordinance preamble)
- Powers and duties of the office
- Compensation of the official (if any)
- Other details as is necessary