Q: Summer is coming, and our city wants to host an event where residents meet our police officers. Can we spend money to do that?
LMC: Yes. The Legislature passed a law last year that allows any city to spend money on an event that the council determines will foster positive relationships between law enforcement and the community. This bill specifically mentions National Night Out, but also allows spending money on other similar events where the purpose is to bring together law enforcement and the community. For example, some cities host a “Coffee with Cops” event. The law also authorizes fundraising for these events if the council clearly gives that direction by resolution.
If the city wants to raise money through fundraising activities for National Night Out or a similar event, before doing so, the city council must adopt a resolution authorizing officials and staff to solicit contributions for that purpose. If a city plans to spend money for such an event without fundraising, then the city doesn’t need to pass a resolution or do anything else before hosting the event. To access the League’s model resolution, “Authorizing Solicitation of Contributions,” visit www.lmc.org/fundraising.
Answered by Research Attorney Pamela Whitmore: email@example.com
Cybersecurity (Part 3 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?
LMC: There are three low-cost actions all cities should take. They involve passwords, updates, and backups. We’ll cover backups now. When is the last time you checked your data backup? Backups are one of the most important aspects of technology. The city should back up all data to protect itself from natural disasters, failed hardware, viruses, and hacker attacks. It is good practice to restore a small file from your backups once a month to ensure backups are working and to practice the restore process itself.
Keep in mind that copying files to another folder on your hard drive or a network drive is not a backup! If a computer at your city hall is compromised by a virus, all files are at risk. Backups should be stored in a secure location. Be sure to keep multiple versions so you can find data based on the day of the week or month if you need to restore something. If you are operating solo at your city hall, consider a simple backup unit that connects to your PC directly and can be stored in a secure location, preferably offsite when not in use. To learn more, see the LMC information memo at www.lmc.org/cybersecurity.
Answered by Chief Information Officer Melissa Reeder: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: We want to allow our employees to cash out unused vacation once per year. We’ve heard there may be income tax issues for employees who don’t take the cash-out. Can you explain?
LMC: Employees who do not choose the cash-out option may be subject to income taxes because they could have chosen to receive the income. The IRS calls this “constructive receipt.” The employee is taxed on the income at the earliest date he or she could have received it. If the employee does not have control (for example, the payment is automatic under the employer’s policy), then there is no constructive receipt. When constructive receipt occurs, the employer must report and withhold on that amount in the year the cash could have been paid. Failure to do so generally results in the need to file amended returns and additional taxes and penalties.
Learn more starting on page 48 of the LMC HR Reference Manual, Chapter 1, at www.lmc.org/employmentbasics. It includes alternatives to avoid constructive receipt, a flow chart for analyzing constructive receipt, and a model employee election form to help with compliance efforts.
Answered by Human Resources Director Laura Kushner: email@example.com
Mutual Aid Agreements
Q: Why should my city have a written mutual aid agreement if it can rely on Minnesota Statues, section 12.331?
LMC: Section 12.331 does provide a framework to request and provide mutual aid when there is no written agreement. However, Section 12.331 requires an “emergency” before a city can request assistance. An emergency is defined as “an unforeseen combination of circumstances that calls for immediate action to prevent a disaster from developing or occurring.” A written mutual aid agreement may allow the city to request assistance in non-emergencies. Section 12.331 also says that the entity providing assistance is entitled to reimbursement for all assistance. A written agreement may provide for a grace period where the requesting party is not required to pay for the assistance received. To learn more, see the LMC information memo at www.lmc.org/emergencyassistance.
Answered by Risk Management Attorney Chris Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org
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