Orders, Resolutions & Ordinances

Oct 19, 2013 by

Orders, Resolutions & Ordinances

Local governments in Missouri always act through the council or board that makes decisions for the local community. This can include decisions ranging from hiring a new staff member, recognizing retiring staff members, purchasing a police vehicle, creating a law against public nuisances,  or entering multi-million dollar contracts that bind the agency and its taxpayers for years to come. Since the only way a governmental body can act is through the deliberate process of the council or board, every action requires some method for making those decisions. Depending on the importance of the decision being made, there are different levels of formality given to each decision.

The most common and basic action of a local government may be taken through motions or orders entered in the minutes of the organization. The decisions are made with very little formality, but always include the votes of those present. Many times, votes may even be taken by voice vote, or a simple call for yeas and nays.  Frequently, organizations use these common methods to approve the hiring of a new staff member or approving minor purchases.

Technically, under Missouri law, a resolution is no different than an order or motion. However, in every day practice, resolutions often given the semblance of a greater formality to decisions made regarding special occasions. City governments frequently use resolutions to recognize individuals or community groups for their commitment to bettering their local community. Resolutions may also be used to provide direction to agency employees, or to express the opinion of the governing body on a particular issue.

For city governments that have mayor’s who possess the power to veto actions, orders, motions and resolutions are considered to be administrative, simply giving direction to the agency. Orders may be used to call a special election, and resolutions may be used to direct employees to carry out certain actions. Unlike ordinances, orders and resolutions are not considered law, but they instead direct the everyday business of the local community. And, because they are not ordinances, orders and resolutions are not subject to the mayor’s approval or veto.

The most formal mode of action to be taken by a governmental body is the passing and approval of an ordinance. A duly passed ordinance carries with it the full force of law in the State of Missouri. Violations of an ordinance can be prosecuted in the city court, for which the punishment can include fines and even limited imprisonment. Ordinances must be passed by the majority vote of the governing body, and in cities of the Third and Fourth Class, the ordinance must be approved, or vetoed, by the Mayor.

Understanding when each method of decision-making is appropriate can be a tricky task. For most actions taken by local government agencies, there is little direction given on what type of action is required. Generally, motions and orders can accomplish most common decision faced by a local government agency, and ordinances can be reserved for those decisions that face long term consequences.  Where certain actions or decisions require an ordinance, that requirement is most often outlined by state statute. Failure to follow the requirements of the state statute often result in courts determining that the decision was invalid because it was not properly made.

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