Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from Jan-Feb 2018 issue

Ask LMC: Keeping City Computer Systems Secure

Cybersecurity (Part 1 of 4)
Q: I work in a small city and do not have technical support staff. What are some things I can do to keep our computer systems more secure?

Cybersecurity: There are three low-cost
actions all cities should take.LMC: There are three low-cost actions all cities should take. They involve passwords, updates, and backups. We’ll cover passwords today.

Ensuring all your systems have complex and unique passwords is essential. Complex passwords are at least eight characters and include special characters (such as “!” or “$”). Consider using a passphrase—a sentence, slogan, or phrase. Include punctuation and spaces whenever possible. A phrase is easier to remember and harder to hack.

If you have a server at your city, require a password change every 60 days, and do not allow previous passwords. These options are available on your server administration panel. If you don’t have a server, then enforce this practice directly with staff.

Lastly, do not use the same passwords at work and in your personal life. Separating your work and personal digital worlds reduces the impact if your password is hacked.

Answered by Chief Information Officer Melissa Reeder: mreeder@lmc.org

Ordinances
Q: Are we required to post a notice of our ordinances before we pass them?

LMC: Yes. A recent law change requires cities to post the text of almost all ordinances before the ordinances are approved by council. The law does not apply to interim ordinances.

Under Minnesota Statutes, section 415.19, cities must post the text of any new or amended ordinances at least 10 days before a final vote by council. Cities have the following options for notifying residents:

  • Provide email notification of proposed ordinances if the city has an electronic notification system that distributes general city information or notices via email.
  • Post notice of a proposed ordinance in the same location as other public notices if a city does not have an electronic notification system.
  • Update the city website with proposed ordinance language if the city posts ordinances on its website. If ordinances are not on the city’s website, the city does not have to post proposed ordinances on its website.

Additionally, if the city has an electronic notification system, cities must provide residents an option to register for ordinance notification. Learn more about this topic from Chapter 7 (page 45) of the LMC Handbook for Minnesota Cities at www.lmc.org/handbook7.

Answered by Research Attorney Quinn O’Reilly: qoreilly@lmc.org

Union Contracts
Q: Our union contract includes an employee benefit that conflicts with state or federal law. We are in the middle of a two-year contract. What should we do?

LMC: Union contracts cannot conflict with state or federal laws (Minnesota Statutes, section 179A.20, subdivision 2). Most union contracts have a clause that allows the city an “out” if something is found to be in violation of state or federal laws. See what your contract says about this type of situation (typically in a “savings” clause or article) and follow any process it identifies.

Absent a process in the contract, you should put the union on notice of the conflict. You will likely need to bargain with the union to iron out specifics about how the change will impact employees. Sometimes this is done through a “memorandum of agreement,” which outlines how the situation will be handled until the contract is open for negotiation again. In extreme cases, where the union does not agree that the provision conflicts with state or federal law, the matter may wind up in arbitration or court.

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

Contractors
Q: What happens if the city fails to require a contractor to furnish a payment bond?

LMC: A contractor is required to give the city a payment bond for any public work contract over $100,000. The amount of the bond must equal the contract price. A payment bond is to ensure that all workers, subcontractors, and individuals furnishing materials are paid. If a city fails to get a payment bond from a contractor for projects over $100,000, the city can be held liable for losses to any workers, subcontractors, and individuals who furnish materials if the contractor does not pay them.

Cities may still require a payment bond for projects less than $100,000. However, if the city does not require a payment bond for projects under $100,00, it will not be held responsible for payments to unpaid suppliers and subcontractors since a bond is not required. For additional information, see the LMC information memo at www.lmc.org/compbidding.

Answered by Risk Management Attorney Chris Smith: csmith@lmc.org

Read the Jan-Feb 2018 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine

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