Center for Archival Collections

Municipal Government Records

Municipal government is a long-established form of local government. Marietta, Ohio, settled in 1788, was the first authorized American community in the Northwest Territory to use this govern- mental system. Other southern Ohio towns, Portsmouth, Cincinnati, Dayton, and Chillicothe, soon joined the ranks. Whenever people naturally group together, the need for a government structure becomes apparent and is ultimately instituted.

From 1803 to 1902, the Ohio General Assembly played a dominant role in municipal government. As mandated, villages and cities could not pass a single regulatory law without a special act of the state legislature. Increased population caused additional problems because municipalities could not provide for increased services and needed reforms. The state legislature finally realized the seriousness of the problem and, in 1902, the Ohio Supreme Court adopted a municipal code for Ohio's cities and villages.

Although the new code provided long-needed guidelines, it still required additional revisions. The Ohio Constitutional Convention of 1912 provided this needed clarification by establishing two governmental plans for municipal government: 1) Optional Charters, and 2) Home Rule. Optional Charters are general forms of government and consist of either the mayor-council plan, the commission plan, or the city manager plan. Optional Charter municipalities are subject to the state's regulations and adhere to the state municipal code. Home Rule municipalities have framed their own unique and individual char- ter for self-government. These cities and villages are not bound to state codes, but rather have established their own codes. As plans of government, however, most Home Rule municipalities can choose either the council-manager plan, commission-manager plan, or the mayor-council plan of government. Home Rule cities and villages may use Ohio codes as guidelines.

Municipal government is highly functional and service oriented. It provides a wide range of services such as police and fire protection, utilities, road construction and maintenance, health services, and many others. Municipalities also have the authority to appropriate property for public use, to sell or lease property, to regulate and control streets and public grounds, to tax and assess citizens, and to borrow money to finance the above-mentioned services. Municipal government forms an integral part of Ohio's governmental structure.

MUNICIPAL OFFICES

Auditor (Treasurer Clerk/Treasurer)

The Auditor and Treasurer or Clerk/Treasurer may be combined or be two separate offices at the municipal level. The primary duties of the Auditor include maintenance of the city's financial records and keeping accurate statements of all monies received and spent. Municipally owned property and income derived from property, taxes, and assessments also are administered by the Auditor. The Auditor issues and pays the city's bills. The Auditor is responsible for receiving financial statements and reports from other municipal offices and serves on various municipal boards.

The Treasurer receives and deposits the municipal revenue in the local banks, pays out monies from the Auditor, and keeps records of all the transactions made on behalf of the city.

The Clerk/Treasurer of a village performs all of the above duties. In addition, this official records council proceedings. The Clerk/Treasurer also may serve as recorder for other village boards or commissions.

City/Village Solicitor (Law Director)

The Solicitor or Law Director must be an attorney-at-law in the state of Ohio. This official prepares all contracts for the municipality. The Solicitor also serves as the prosecuting attorney in all law cases involving the municipality in mayor's or municipal court. Furthermore, the Solicitor is required to give legal opinions to council or other municipal departments as requested and prepares and submits an annual report.

Civil Service Commission

The Civil Service Commission is responsible for the fair hiring and promotion of municipal employees. The Commission administers tests, rates job performance, recommends promotion, and classifies positions. Its members are appointed and meet to decide policies. A record of its proceedings is kept.

Council (Council Clerk)

The Council is the law making arm of municipal government. These laws are called ordinances and resolutions. Members of Council are elected by popular vote from districts or wards within the municipality. The Council reviews and decides upon all municipal business and seeks to serve the needs of the residents of the city or village.

The Council Clerk is responsible for keeping the records of Council and also serves as an administrative aid to Council.

Engineer

The Engineer of a municipality is responsible for platting municipal property and for supervising municipal building projects including roads and highways. The Building and Inspection Department of the Engineer's office is responsible for examining structures built within municipal limits. The department issues permits authorizing approval to proceed with renovations, additions, and the building of entire structures.

Income Tax

The Income Tax Department is authorized by ordinance to collect taxes from municipal residents and to administer the income tax law.

Mayor/City Manager

The Mayor is an elected official who performs all the duties prescribed by the ordinance of each municipality. The Mayor is responsible for the administration of all facets of municipal government. This usually is accomplished by delegating authority to subordinate offices.

The City Manager is appointed by the Council as the administrative head of the municipality. The City Manager performs all may- oral, fiscal, and administrative duties.

Municipal Court/Mayor's Court

The Municipal Court, along with the Police Department, serves as part of the city's justice system. Judges are elected to try civil and criminal cases. Small claims, minor misdemeanors, and trusteeship cases also are handled. A clerk of the court is required to administer all records of the court.

Mayor's Court has jurisdiction where no Municipal Court has been created. (Some Municipal Courts do service surrounding villages.) The Mayor serves as the court's judge. The Mayor is required to keep a record of the proceedings (dockets) and a cash book for recording fines paid. Generally, the Mayor's Court is responsible for traffic violations and misdemeanor cases.

Parks and Recreation

The Parks and Recreation Department serves the leisure needs of the community. It is usually administered by a board and functions under a director. The director is responsible for all municipally sponsored outdoor activities and the parks system.

Planning Commission

The Planning Commission, comprised of the Mayor or City Manager, municipal officers, and citizens, is responsible for the development and beautification of the community. The municipality may be divided into districts in the interest of promoting a particular function such as health or public safety.

Purchasing and Personnel

The Purchasing and Personnel Department administers and is responsible for all municipal purchases. The department keeps contracts, receives invoices, and pays for supplies and equipment. Personnel maintains all the files of past and present employees. It also handles insurance, workmen's compensation, vacation, and leave requests.

Safety/Service Director

The duties of the Safety/Service Director are multi-faceted. Although two individuals may be employed--one as the Director of Public Safety and the other as Director of Public Service--many municipalities tend to combine the two positions into one. The Safety/ Service Director then is responsible for administering the police and fire departments. (Both of these departments, however, are under direct supervision of their chiefs.) The Director also is the chief administrator and manager of the charity, correction, and building departments. As Service Director, this official is responsible for the management and supervision of all public works--streets, sewers, utilities/water and electric plants, sanitary disposal, park systems, and cemeteries. The Director also supervises the platting of municipal property.

Public safety at the village level is channeled directly through the police and fire departments. There usually is no Public Safety Director.

Village Administrator/Board of Public Affairs

Villages have the option of either hiring a Village Administrator or establishing a Board of Public Affairs comprised of three village citizens. This position fulfills the description of the service responsibilities of the Safety/Service Director.

Utilities

Although administered by the Safety/Service Director, the Utilities Department has the responsibility for initiating, billing, and monitoring water, electric, or gas output for the residents of the community. There usually are three divisions--administration, billing, and operations (plants).

At the village level, the Clerk/Treasurer or an assistant for the Board of Public Affairs issues utility bills to municipal residents. Trained superintendents operate the plants.

NOTE: The above office descriptions are typical of municipal departments. However, it is important to remember that the size of the municipality dictates the establishment of offices and corresponding officials.