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Ask LMC: Can We Have Labor Talks Behind Closed Doors?

A woman in a white collared shirt looks out of a partially closed office door.Human Resources
Q: Can the city council close a meeting to conduct labor negotiations?

LMC: Generally, no. Under Minnesota Statutes, section 13D.03, the city can close a council meeting to discuss labor negotiation strategies (e.g., the size of wage increase and other benefits that it will offer to union groups, what types of contract language it wishes to obtain, etc.), but it may not close the meeting for the actual negotiations. Many cities choose to appoint a chief negotiator who conducts negotiations on behalf of the city. The chief negotiator could be either an outside labor relations attorney/consultant or an internal staff person. If a city does close a meeting to discuss negotiation strategy, the meeting must be electronically recorded and the recording preserved for two years after the contract is signed.

Insurance
Q: How much insurance should the city require a contractor to have?

LMC: It depends. When hiring an independent contractor to perform a service, the city should generally require the contractor to have commercial general liability (CGL) insurance. Depending on the nature of the service, the city might also require automobile liability, professional liability, or another specialized coverage. LMCIT’s general recommendation is to require a minimum of $1 million in coverage. Higher limits should be required as the risk increases. Many cities require a minimum of $1.5 million in coverage because this equals the city’s tort caps. While there is nothing wrong with this requirement, a contractor likely cannot purchase $1.5 million in coverage. In reality, this is a $2 million requirement. Moreover, when the city is added as an “additional insured” to the contractor’s coverage, the city and the contractor share the coverage. If the contractor uses up all the coverage limits, there is nothing left for the city. Thus, requiring a contractor to have insurance equal to the tort caps does not necessarily fully protect the city.

Use of PhotosA man points a professional camera toward a crowd.
Q: Does the city need to get permission before taking and publishing pictures of citizens at city events?

LMC: If the city is going to take pictures of citizens in a public place, the best practice is to get the citizens’ consent—in writing—before taking or publishing any pictures. However, if that’s not possible, the city can generally take pictures of citizens in public places without getting the citizens’ permission. Remember, though, that cities are collecting public data. So pictures should be taken with restraint and with as much advance notice as possible. Ideally, event notices will mention that the city will be taking pictures. And, of course, if a person asks not to have a picture taken, it’s best to honor that request. After the event, the city may want to use some of the pictures in its newsletter or other publications, or on its website. If the picture is taken in a public place, is not embarrassing to the person, and there are no data practices issues, then the picture may be used for purposes of reporting on a matter of public interest. Still, it’s never a bad idea to ask the person to sign a release. In addition to protecting the city from legal problems, this will provide the added bonus of getting a name to go with the photo!

Got questions for LMC? Send your questions to choffacker@lmc.org.

Read the November-December 2013 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine

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