Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year from LMC and Executive Director David Unmacht

A message from the executive director of the League of Minnesota Cities:

The new year is here, and brings with it much anticipation, high expectations and renewed energy.

To all our members and friends, I can’t wait to see what ideas, projects, and activities are in store for you in the year ahead.  2016 will be no different than any year as I am confident each of you will resolve to continue your great work on behalf of your citizens, city and community.

As you reflect on your past accomplishments and unfinished business, please remember that the League is here to help you grow and thrive. We are committed to excellence in our service and partnership so please don’t hesitate to connect with our staff or myself.

No question is too simple and no problem is too complex. It’s our business to support you, but it’s also our professional passion.

As I reflect on my first five months with the League I am thankful for the opportunity to serve Minnesota’s great cities. I am excited about the year ahead and the many opportunities we will accomplish together.

Best wishes to you in 2016,


Research Question of the Week: Notice for Emergency Meetings (12/31/15)

Question: So how about those emergency meeting notice rules you promised?
Answer: OK, we went over the rules for special meetings last week. This week: emergency meetings. Oh yeah. We know how to have fun.

Emergency meetings
Emergency meetings are a type of special meeting. One might say that emergency meetings are “special” special (special?) meetings of the city council. According to statute, an emergency meeting “is a special meeting called because of circumstances that, in the judgment of the public body, require immediate consideration by the public body."

A city should carefully consider whether the subject of a meeting is truly an emergency, or if the matter could be properly considered at a special or regular meeting of the city council.

Emergency meetings are called in the same way as other special meetings—either by the mayor, or two members of a five-member council, or three members of a seven-member council. The notice requirements for providing notice to councilmembers are the same as for a non-emergency special meeting. However, there is no requirement to post a public notice or publish a public notice of the meeting. Any news medium that has signed up to receive notice of meetings is to be notified of the emergency meeting as soon as practicable after notifying the councilmembers.

Written by Quinn O'Reilly, staff attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1271.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Research Q of the Week: Notice for Special Meetings (12/24/15)

Question: What’s the deal with notice for special meetings? How about notice for emergency meetings?

Answer: Yes, of course all your city council meetings are special. But on a technical level, "special meetings" are meetings held at a time or place that is different from the regularly scheduled meetings.

Special meetings are often scheduled to deal with specific items that need to be addressed before the next scheduled meeting.

Often public hearings are scheduled outside the regular meeting, and if it’s not a regular meeting, it’s a special meeting. (Of course, when it comes to special meeting notices, public hearing notice may have its own statutory requirement, depending on the subject matter.)

In statutory cities, special meetings may be called by the mayor or by any two members of a five-member council, or three members of a seven-member council. Home rule charter cities may have different requirements for calling special meetings.

When a special meeting has been called, the clerk must:
  • mail a notice to all councilmembers at least one day before the meeting stating the time and place of the meeting. If all councilmembers attend and participate in the meeting, the notice requirements will be considered to have been satisfied.
  • post written notice of the date, time, place, and purpose of the special meeting on the city’s principal bulletin board at least three days before the meeting. A principal bulletin board must be located in a place reasonably accessible to the public. If the city does not have a principal bulletin board, the notice must be posted on the door of its usual meeting room.
  • mail or deliver notice to each person who has filed a written request for notice of special meetings with the city. Notice to these individuals must be mailed or delivered at least three days before the meeting. Alternatively, the city may publish this notice in the official newspaper at least three days before the meeting.
The rules are a little different for emergency meetings. We'll review those next week.

Written by Quinn O'Reilly, staff attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1271.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Ugly Sweater Day at LMC—Ugly for a Good Cause

"Hey, did you just call her sweater ugly?"

Things got ugly at the League building last Thursday. Real ugly.

In the second annual Ugly Sweater Day (theme: getting ugly for a good cause!) staff and board members donned their most garish apparel in an effort to out-tinsel, out-groan, and out-fundraise each other.

Donations to the department director's sweater contest, modest entry fees for an employee ugly sweater competition, and a buck-a-pop donation to "dress down" for Thursday's activities snowballed into over $1,200 that will be donated to Emma Norton Services, a St. Paul organization that provides stable shelter as well as mental health and chemical dependency support services to women and families.  Like we said, "Ugly for a good cause." Learn more about Emma Norton Services

Executive Director David Unmacht shows off his finery.
 The sweater's ornate candy cane details allegedly
went "missing" early Thursday morning.
Who won?
Over the past month staff have been donating to see which director would wear a special homemade sweater creation. Despite some heated competition and last-minute campaign shenanigans, staff donated the most to see Executive Director Dave Unmacht wear the prize at Thursday's board meeting.

Dave's red carpet moment:

"What are you wearing today, Dave?"

"Well, it's a reindeer ... puking."

Staff and board finery
In addition to the reindeer that swallowed too much cheer, attire on display by staff featured some festive denim fringe, knitted snowmen with snowflake buttons ("my wife made me wear it"), and a wrist-to-wrist representation of a mantle, complete with faux evergreen garland and stockings hung with care.

The winner of the employee costume contest took the top honor by also sporting striped elf pants, completing her ensemble.

Not to be outdone, board members got in on the action too. Brian Scholin of Pine City stole the show with his heavily-adorned Rudolph sweater that plays music when you squeezed the nose. That was a lot of sparkle, Brian. Maybe too much sparkle.

Best wishes to all during the remaining days of 2015! May all your sweaters be ugly and your hearts and homes warm and bright.

Underwriter Antonio Montelibano is pretty sure that's a
women's cardigan he's wearing.

Board member Brian Scholin embraced
the sparkle to win best board sweater.
Go ahead, have a hearth-y laugh at LMCIT's Dan Greensweig.
HR Director Laura Kushner is the ugly sweater mastermind.

Jammie Bauermeister and
Joyce Hottinger make it
look good.

Left to right: Board members Jonathan Smith of Frazee, Heidi
 Omerza of Ely, and Mike Mornson of Hopkins spread
some cheer and raised eyebrows.

Photo credits go to Joyce Hottinger and Jeff Korte

Friday, December 18, 2015

Research Q of the Week: The Handbook for Minnesota Cities (12/18/15)

Question: Where can I find the Handbook? And what's in it?

Answer: The Handbook for Minnesota Cities is a comprehensive resource on municipal issues that is updated annually after the state Legislature has adjourned. The Handbook, produced by the League, has 26 chapters and starts with the basics of local government construction in Minnesota and includes chapters on issues like development, budgeting, and records management.

Some of the more popular chapters include:

Chapter 7: Meetings, Motions, Resolutions, and Ordinances covers the basics of meetings like giving notice for a special meeting, when a council cannot meet, and the tasks a council should do at its annual meeting. The Open Meeting Law requirements for councils and their boards/commissions/committees is discussed in detail include when and how a council should go about having a closed meeting. The Handbook also includes an explanation of what actions can be made by motion, which should be documented in a resolution or are required to be an ordinance.

Chapter 6: Elected Officials Council Structure and Role
includes the basics of who is qualified to hold office in Minnesota, terms of office, and what to do when there is a vacancy on the council. Gift law, conflict of interest, and incompatible offices are also covered to help protect councilmembers. The role of the mayor, individual councilmembers, and the council’s authority in general is discussed. When the council can delegate authority to staff or a council committee is also explained.

Interested in your city's economic development? What types of businesses and professions a city can and cannot license is reviewed in Chapter 11. How a city can help spur development is considered in Chapter 15. And property taxes, including setting the levy, is examined in Chapter 22.

If this sounds like the best idea since figgy pudding, check it out today. The Handbook is available for free online. Accessing the Handbook online ensures you are viewing the most up-to-date information. A printed copy of the Handbook can also be purchased. Here's the order form.

Written by Amber Eisenschenk, staff attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1227.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Spotted: Infrastructure Data at Your Fingertips

An interactive map dedicated to infrastructure data lit up the faces of city officials testing it out yesterday at the League offices. This geographic information system (GIS) project is being developed by the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) with the support of the Pollution Control Agency, the Department of Health, the League of Minnesota Cities and the University of Minnesota.

State Auditor Rebecca Otto and her team have taken this preview on the road to Buffalo, Austin, Fairmont, Worthington, New Ulm, and St. Paul over the past two months to gather feedback.

How does it work? With a touch of the screen (or click of the mouse), the map displays corresponding information about water and wastewater infrastructure, including age and financial information. It could someday be used to display information about roads, too. 

The project consolidates existing data that cities already report to places like the Department of Health, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Public Facilities Authority, and the State Auditor’s Office.

What's next? The OSA team will polish up the maps based on comments they've gathered from their travels before making them publicly available, and could potentially add more information types to the database.

Photo credit goes to LMC staffer Jeff Korte.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Spotted: Not Quite Santa's Workshop

It's not quite Santa's Workshop, but this group of staff from the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) and the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) spotted here are putting together something that may delight your city soon!

In case you haven't guessed, these folks got together last week to put together and mail out the property/casualty dividend checks to LMCIT member cities. It took a full room of volunteers to help with the envelope-stuffing—members of the property/casualty program are receiving over $16 million for their hard work helping reduce claims over the past year.

You can learn lots more about the dividend and LMCIT over yonder on the public safety blog, "On the Line" with LMCIT's Rob Boe.

Photo credit goes to Rob Boe

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Research Q of the Week: Can a Minnesota City Ban Guns? (12/10/15)

Question: Can my city pass an ordinance banning guns in city limits?

Answer: No. You may have heard that the U.S. Supreme Court just refused to hear a challenge to a city ordinance banning assault weapons and semi-automatic guns in city limits. But the idea of a city ordinance banning guns likely does not jibe with state law in Minnesota.

What cities can't do
In Minnesota, the Legislature preempts city authority to ban guns in city limits and does not allow cities “to regulate firearms, ammunition, or their respective components.”

What cities can do
Under that same state law, cities do have the authority to adopt zoning ordinances that govern where a federally licensed firearms dealer may operate a firearms business in a city.

Cities can also regulate the discharge of guns in the city, and as such could pass an ordinance banning the discharge of guns in the city. Common exemptions to a ban include discharge of BB guns, acts of self-defense, firing of blank ammo during a ceremony or performance, or hunting in agricultural zones with permission of the police chief.

We have some sample ordinances if you would like to see them. Just give us a call at (800) 925-1122 or (651) 281-1200 and ask for Research, or send an email to

Written by Jeanette Behr, research manager with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1228.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Research Q of the Week: Can a City Employee Work on a Public Holiday? (12/3)

Question: I'm a city employee. Can I clock a few hours at work on a public holiday? 

Answer: We know you love your job, but believe it or not, one job perk for most city employees is not having to work on public holidays.

State law sets a number of holidays when no public business can be transacted except in cases of “necessity.” So that means no city employees can work on a holiday unless the employee’s work is a necessity, such as the work of a city’s public-safety employees or plow drivers in the case of treacherous weather. State law sets the following public holidays:

• New Year’s Day (Jan. 1)
• Martin Luther King’s Birthday (third Monday in January)
• Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday (third Monday in February)
• Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
• Independence Day (July 4)
• Labor Day (first Monday in September)
• Veterans Day (Nov. 11)
• Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November)
• Christmas Day (Dec. 25)

In addition, all cities have the option of deciding whether Christopher Columbus Day (second Monday in October) and the Friday after Thanksgiving will be holidays. If you usually eat too much Turkey on Thanksgiving, you probably see the wisdom in that one. If a city does not designate these two particular days as holidays, public business may be transacted on them.

Finally, if a holiday falls on a Saturday, the preceding Friday is designated a holiday, and if it falls on a Sunday, the next Monday is designated a holiday.

Written by Susan Naughton, research attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1232.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information.