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What City Officials Need to Know about Municipal Law

Posted on: August 14, 2015 by Aegis General

As most city officials should be well aware, the public sector is not immune to risk and loss exposures. They have a duty to not only keep their citizens physically safe, but also manage debt and fiscal policy, provide a sufficient public investment in education, and address terrorism and border control issues where applicable; among other duties. While a solid first step towards municipality risk management is obtaining the right Municipality Insurance Package, there are factors that city officials must understand about municipal law, in order to truly understand the threats they face.

Legal resource website FindLaw.com defines municipal law as “the law specific to a particular city or county (known legally as a “municipality”), and the government bodies within those cities or counties.” Municipal law covers a wide range of issues, from property liability, zoning laws, and crime insurance risks, to law enforcement, cyber and educators’ legal liability.

Developing municipal law is the responsibility of the local city or town councils, which are typically made up of the city’s residents. Therefore, residents generally have a high level of control over municipal law. With that being said; there are certain legal and municipal terms that are vital for these residents and city officials to understand.

Bylaws: By definition, a bylaw is a rule that an organization (in this case the city council) makes and that its members must follow. It’s also known as a “law or regulation that is made by a local government and that applies only to the local area.” These bylaws are used to manage meetings, votes, record taking, budgeting, etc.

Zoning Laws: Zoning is also referred to as land use; these laws regulate the purposes for which land may be used. For example, a lot could be approved for multi-family housing complexes or commercial use, or even manufactured homes.

Municipal Charter: A legal documentation that establishes the municipality. In other words, this is the municipality’s founding document.

Municipal Corporation: This is a city, town, village, or borough that has governmental powers. Their legal structure allows them to buy and sell property, but also allows them to sue and be sued.

Police Power: This is the legal term for the ability to use law enforcements to regulate the behavior of a municipality’s residents. Due to the nature of their work, it’s vital for municipalities to ensure that law enforcement liability and public officials’ liability are both part of their municipality insurance package.

Ordinance: This is the technical term used to describe a law that has been issued by the municipality.

In addition to being aware of the above terms, it’s important for city or town council members to have a clear understanding of the practice areas involved in municipal law. Factors such as property taxes and zoning issues will also affect real estate cases. Many municipalities need to require that small businesses file local business licenses. Municipality leaders much also ensure that their local board of education is doing their part to contribute to education policy.

At Aegis General Insurance Agency, we understand the inherent risks involved with running a municipality. Through one of our divisions, Allied Public Risk, co-owned by Allied World Assurance, we provide insurance products and risk management services for the public sector. We invite you to learn more by contacting us today at 855.399.0966.

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Posted in: blog Municipality Insurance