Local government officers and employees
Municipalities and regional districts employ various officers and employees to carry out the decisions and implement the direction set by the municipal council or regional district board.
As employers, local governments can use tools such as job descriptions, employment contracts, collective agreements, bylaws and policies to help clarify duties, salaries and benefits of their officers and employees. Local governments must also comply with any requirements set in provincial and federal legislation such as the Employment Standards Act, Workers Compensation Act and the Income Tax Act.
Local governments may engage in labour relations bargaining on their own or collectively. If regional district boards wish to include their regional district in an employers' organization, as defined under the Labour Relations Code, it must be approved by a two-thirds vote.
Municipal councils and regional district boards may delegate decision-making authorities to local government staff, subject to certain limitations.
The roles of locally elected officials and local government staff are distinct. A council or board member cannot be a staff member of their local government, and a staff member of a local government cannot be one of its council or board members. For example, if a staff member of a local government wishes to seek elected office in the municipality in which they work or the regional district in which that municipality is a member, they must take a leave of absence and, if elected, resign from their staff position.
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Local government staff’s conditions of employment, including any particular benefits they may receive, are primarily set out in their employment contract or collective agreement. These contracts and agreements are generally supplemented by bylaws, policies and provincial legislation.
While the local government itself may be held responsible, officers and employees of a local government are generally protected from personal legal liability for actions, omissions or defaults related to the performance of their duties. They may also generally be indemnified by the local government against legal actions brought against them.
Legislation prohibits any person, including municipal council and regional district board members, from interfering with or obstructing a local government officer or employee's in the performance of their duties.
Municipal councils and regional district boards establish officers position by adopting bylaws. All local governments must have at least two officer positions: one responsible for the local government's corporate administration and, the other responsible for its financial administration.
Provincial legislation sets out the minimum required duties for each position. These legislated duties are part of the position and cannot be diminished, although a municipal council or regional district board can add duties to either position. The same individual can be appointed to multiple positions for example, be appointed as both the corporate officer as well as the financial officer.
A local government may also by bylaw establish any officer position, and assign it duties the local government considers necessary, such as a chief administrative officer to manage its overall operations.
The officer responsible for corporate administration for a local government has the following duties, and may also have others assigned at the direction of the municipal council or regional district board.
- Ensure that accurate minutes are prepared for each council or board meeting, and committee meetings
- Maintain and keep safe the minutes, bylaws, and other records of the business of the council or board and its committees
- Ensure that access is provided to records of the local government's business, as required by law or authorized by the council or board
- Administer oaths and take affirmations, affidavits and declarations as required under provincial legislation
- Certify copies of bylaws and other documents
- Accept notices and documents that are required or permitted to be provided to the local government or its council or board
- Keep the corporate seal of the local government, and affix it to documents as required
If there were no chief administrative officer position established in a local government, the corporate officer may also serve as the primary point of contact between the council or board and the local government's other staff.
The financial administrative officer for a local government has the following duties, and may also have others at the direction of the municipal council or regional district board.
- Receive all money paid to the local government
- Ensure all the local government's funds and securities are kept safe
- Invest the local government's funds, until required, in authorized investments
- Expend the local government's money in the manner authorized by the council or board
- Prepare and keep accurate records and full accounts of the local government's financial affairs
- Exercise control and supervision over all other financial affairs of the local government
Chief administrative officers and other officers
In addition to the required corporate administrative officer and financial administrative officer positions, municipalities and regional districts may establish any officer position. While not a required position, local governments in B.C. nearly always establish a chief administrative officer position.
The Community Charter and Local Government Act provide for a chief administrative officer to have the following duties:
- Manage the local government's operations overall
- Implement the municipal council or regional district board's policies, programs and other directions
- Advise and inform the council or board on the local government's operation and affairs
Chief administrative officers typically serve as the primary point of contact between the council or board and the local government's staff. The municipal council or regional district board often delegates to the chief administrative officer the responsibility to hire individuals to fill the other officer and employee positions.
The chief administrative officer, corporate officer and financial officer are generally the local government staff supporting the local government’s operations at a senior level, along with other officers a local government may choose to appoint, such as department heads. It takes a wide variety of employees to run programs, provide services and to implement the policies and decisions made by elected officials.
Suspension and dismissal of officers and employees
Given the complexities of employment law, local governments may find it beneficial to seek legal counsel before making a decision to suspend or dismiss an officer or employee.
A municipal mayor or regional district board chair has the power to suspend a local government officer or employee if they consider it necessary. The suspension must be reported to the municipal council or regional district board at its next meeting, and the council or board then has the option to confirm the suspension, confirm and extend the suspension, or reinstate or dismiss the officer or employee.
A municipal council or regional district board may dismiss an officer by terminating their appointment in either of the following ways:
- If for cause, immediately without any period of notice
- In any other case, with reasonable notice and a two-thirds affirmative vote of the council or board
An officer must be provided an opportunity to be heard by the council or board before their appointment is terminated. The termination is subject to any contracts of employment and other legal rules that are in effect.