Back to the Nov-Dec 2020 issue

Can a Husband and Wife Serve on the City Council Together?

City Council

Q: Can family members serve as councilmembers at the same time?

The words "City Hall" on a building

LMC: Relatives can (and often do) serve on the same city council at the same time. There is no law that prohibits spouses, siblings, parents, children, or other family members from serving on the council as a councilmember or mayor at the same time. In fact, it is not uncommonfor this to happen, especially in smaller cities. The city should not discourage spouses, in particular, from running for office, as that could be considered illegal discrimination based on marital status. It is important, however, to keep certain laws in mind if you have family members on your council. When relatives serve together, they will need to be especially aware of the Open Meeting Law and avoid discussions that result in a quorum of the council outside of a regular meeting. Also, there may be some situations in which someone may need to abstain from voting due to a conflict of interest. The League recommends getting legal advice from the city attorney, because these issues typically depend on the specific facts of each situation. Learn more about conflict of interest from the LMC information memo at www.lmc.org/conflict.

Answered by Research Attorney Aisia Davis: adavis@lmc.org  

City Drivers

Q: What is the difference between the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Clearinghouse and Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) checks for drivers we employ in our city?

LMC: The FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse provides information for drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL), while the MVR provides the full driving record for any driver. The FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse became operational on Jan. 6, 2020, and employers were required to start using it on that date. The Clearinghouse is a secure online database that shows drug and alcohol program violations by drivers with a CDL. The employer is required to conduct a full query of the Clearinghouse prior to hiring a new employee for a position requiring operation of a commercial motor vehicle. The employer must also conduct a limited query of the Clearinghouse annually for all currently employed CDL drivers. A limited query allows an employer to determine if an employee’s Clearinghouse record has any information about resolved or unresolved drug and alcohol program violations but does not have any specific violation information. The full query allows the employer to see detailed information about any drug and alcohol program violation in a driver’s Clearinghouse record.

An MVR check includes license class, endorsements, traffic accidents and violations, suspensions, revocations, and cancellations for any driver. A background check on a prospective employee may or may not include an MVR report. A city should specify if it wants an MVR report included as part of the background check. Studies have consistently shown that drivers with a frequency of previous MVR moving violations and past accidents have a higher probability of being in future accidents. Cities should consider conducting MVR reviews contingent to hiring any employee who will be driving for the city. They should also consider annual MVR checks for all existing employees who drive for the city. For more information about the new FMCSA Clearinghouse requirements, view the LMC webinar at www.lmc.org/clearinghouse.

Answered by Loss Control Consultant Kate Connell: kconnell@lmc.org

Human Resources

Q: One of our employees wants to do a phased retirement. What is a phased retirement and how does it work?

LMC:The Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) offers the Phased Retirement Option (PRO) to support employers who want to thoughtfully transition an employee out of the workforce as part of their succession-planning efforts.

The program is available to employees covered by the PERA Coordinated Plan (not Police & Fire). An employee who is at least 62 years old can begin collecting the pension benefit while continuing to work a reduced schedule. The employee must have worked at least 1,044 hours in each of the five preceding years, be eligible for a benefit immediately, reduce his or her schedule by at least 25%, and not work more than Got questions for LMC? Send your questions to choffacker@lmc.org1,044 hours per year during phased retirement. The PRO agreement must be completed prior to terminating employment and is limited to five years. During the PRO agreement, contributions to PERA are not required to be made by the employee or the employer. Employer consent is required for an employee to enter into a PRO agreement. Learn more about this option from the PERA website at http://bit.ly/perapro.

Answered by Human Resources Director Laura Kushner: lkushner@lmc.org