Q: Is a group that rents a city facility required to have insurance?
LMC: No. Unless required by local ordinance or policy, there is no legal requirement that a group have insurance when renting out a city facility. However, cities should think about requiring liability insurance. While insurance is probably not necessary for every activity, the city should establish criteria to determine when insurance will be required. For example, the city may consider various factors, including the type of organization holding the event, what activities will occur, whether alcohol will be served, the length of the event, and the number of people in attendance. If insurance is mandated, cities typically require commercial general liability insurance in the minimum amount of $1 million, and liquor liability (dram shop) insurance if alcohol is sold. If a group needs to purchase insurance, coverage may be available through the League’s Tenant User Liability Insurance Program (TULIP). Learn more about TULIP and access sample rental documents at www.lmc.org/tulip.
Oath of Office
Q: How should cities administer the oath of office?
LMC: According to Minnesota Statutes, chapter 358, the oath of office shall be taken by “Every person elected or appointed to … public office” prior to transacting any “business or exercising any privilege” of the office. The oath is a promise to faithfully discharge the duties of the office to the best of the person’s abilities and in support of the constitutions of the United States and Minnesota.
Whether it is a person’s first term or 10th, each person must take the oath prior to beginning a new term of office or filling a vacancy. The oath may be taken at any time between the certification of election results and the first meeting of the new council, which occurs on or after the first Monday in January.
The oath is not required to be taken during a regular meeting, but it must be taken orally and with a hand raised. Additionally, a notarized affidavit must be certified by a witness and filed in the city clerk’s office as an official record. The oath may be administered by any other person “holding office under the law of this state,” which includes current city councilmembers, judges, and county commissioners. And the oath may substitute secular terms in place of religious expressions, such as “so help me God.”
It is not clear whether state law requires an appointed city clerk to take an oath. There are no administrative or court decisions that address this specific issue. A city should consult its city attorney about this.
Q: What are the rights of nonconformities under zoning?
LMC: Nonconformities are any land uses, structures, or lots that do not comply with the current zoning ordinance of a city. Legal nonconformities are those that were legal when the zoning ordinance or amendment was adopted in that they complied with then existing ordinance and law. Legal nonconformities generally have a statutory right to continue despite violating the current zoning ordinance. The rights of legal nonconformities are often referred to as grandfather rights.
In Minnesota, any legal nonconformity generally has a statutory right to continue. Specifically, legal nonconformities may be continued, including through repair, replacement, restoration, maintenance, or improvement, but not including expansion. These rights were once limited to repair and maintenance, but in 2004 the Legislature afforded the rights to replacement, restoration, or improvement, but not expansion. Because the state statute does not define expansion, some cities choose to define expansion in the city zoning ordinance. The definition could refer to any physical expansion of the nonconformity, or any intensification of the use.
For more details, see an LMC information memo at www.lmc.org/nonconformities.
Q: If our city has fewer than 50 employees, do we have to offer FMLA leave to our employees?
LMC: All cities are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, whether an employee can use the leave or not is dictated by the number of city employees. If a city has fewer than 50 employees, it may not be required to offer FMLA leave to any employee. The city should consider whether or not “volunteer” firefighters are truly volunteers or are more likely to be seen as “paid on-call” employees. If “paid on-call” employees, the city should count them for FMLA purposes. For more details, see an LMC information memo at www.lmc.org/fmla.
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