Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from May-Jun 2016 issue

Ask LMC: Can the City Use a ‘Per Diem’ Policy for Expense Reimbursement?

Travel Expenses
Q: I’ve heard some cities have a “per diem” policy and do not require receipts for employee expenses when traveling on city business. Is this legal?
LMC: Yes, it is legal to use a “per diem” rate of expense reimbursement, meaning the city allows the employee a certain dollar amount for meals and incidental expenses for each day he or she is traveling on business, and receipts are not required. The IRS clarifies that per diem payments are not part of the employee’s wages if the payment is no more than the federal per diem rate and the employer receives an expense report from the employee within 60 days of travel. The report must include:

  • The business purpose of the trip.
  • The date and place of the trip.
  • Receipts for lodging (if using the meals-only per diem rate). If the above conditions are not met, the per diem payments would be treated as wages. Learn more at http://1.usa.gov/1LJGtzf.

Conflict of Interest
Q: One of our city councilmembers would like to apply for our open clerk-treasurer position. Would this be considered a conflict of interest?
LMC: There are some concerns with this idea. First, the state attorney general has said that the positions of councilmember and city treasurer are not compatible. Therefore, the same person cannot hold both. Also, under the general criteria for compatible offices, it is likely that a councilmember would not be allowed to be the clerk. Positions may be determined to be incompatible with one another when the holder of one position (or the group or board of which the person is a member):

  • Hires or appoints the other.
  • Sets the salary for the other.
  • Performs functions that are inconsistent with the other (e.g., a person cannot supervise him- or herself).
  • Approves the official or fidelity bond of the other. If the council hires, sets the salary, and generally supervises the clerk-treasurer, a councilmember probably should not hold that position. Learn more from the LMC memo at www.lmc.org/conflict.

New Police Officer
Q: What are the requirements for swearing in a police officer?
LMC: In Minnesota there are no requirements for a police officer to be “sworn in.” Some departments have the new hire appear at a formal ceremony or council meeting and others do not. However there are requirements that cities must meet when hiring a new police officer. Under state statute, law enforcement agencies are required to submit information to the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board for each candidate for employment upon initiation of a background investigation. If you want to hire an eligible officer who has not worked previously in Minnesota, you must complete the POST Board’s Request for Peace Officer License application form. If you’re hiring a police officer who already has a valid POST Board license, you must complete a POST Board Personnel Notification form. Learn more at http://bit.ly/22UTCgm.

2020 Census
Q: What is a city’s role in preparing for the next census?
LMC: While the next decennial census is not until April of 2020, the Census Bureau is implementing various programs in order to prepare. Census data is used in many federal and state funding programs for local governments, including local government aid. It is also used to draw boundaries for congressional districts, state legislative districts, and voting precincts. One of the first steps to involve local governments is the survey on boundaries and annexations. This is scheduled for later this year. In 2017, local governments will be called upon to provide updated lists of local addresses. This will involve reviewing the master address lists held by the Census Bureau. In 2019, cities will be involved in forming volunteer groups as part of the partnership program to raise awareness of the upcoming census. Learn more at www.census.gov/2020census.

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Read the May-June 2016 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine.

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