The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site -



Opinion No. 5245

December 1, 1977


Expenditures for public purpose

A home rule city may expend city funds to give an award to persons who have reported a broken water line where the report resulted in a saving to the public.

John A. Aloisi, Esq.

City Attorney

City of Lincoln Park

2933 Fort Street

Lincoln Park, Michigan 48146

I am in receipt of your letter in which you state that the Mayor and City Council of Lincoln Park are considering giving an award in the form of savings bonds to two young people who saved the city money by reporting a broken water line. The essence of your inquiry concerns whether Lincoln Park can lawfully expend city funds in recognition of the performance of such public services.

The city of Lincoln Park has adopted its charter under the provisions of the Home Rule Cities Act. 1909 PA 279, as amended; MCLA 117.1 et seq; MSA 5.2071 et seq. Section 3(h) of the Home Rule Cities Act, supra, in prescribing mandatory charter provisions specified the requirement for an annual appropriation of money for municipal purposes. Const 1963, art 7, Sec. 22, states:

'Under general laws the electors of each city and village shall have the power and authority to frame, adopt and amend its charter, and to amend an existing charter of the city or village heretofore granted or enacted by the legislature for the government of the city or village. Each such city and village shall have power to adopt resolutions and ordinances relating to its municipal concerns, property and government, subject to the constitution and law. No enumeration of powers granted to cities and villages in this constitution shall limit or restrict the general grant of authority conferred by this section.' (emphasis added)

In People ex rel Attorney General v Village of Holly, 119 Mich 637; 78 NW 665 (1899) the court held that an incorporated village has the power to offer a reward for the conviction of persons who have set fire to buildings within its limits thus providing for the safety and general welfare of its inhabitants. In expressing concern about the danger of fires in cities and the need for preventive measures, the court recognized that the governing body of a municipal corporation which has express power to protect the property and promote the welfare of its inhabitants may offer a reward for the detection of offenders against the general safety of its people. Such an exercise of the general welfare clause was said to contravene no provision of the constitution and represented the exercise of the police power necessary to the safety of the city. Further, in Visch v City of Grand Rapids, 260 Mich 318; 244 NW 488 (1932), the court concluded that Grand Rapids could lawfully offer a reward for information leading to the apprehension and conviction of violators of state law within city boundaries. Adhering to the reasoning in the Holly case, supra, the court stated that such rewards are a necessary and proper function of the city and hence not ultra vires. Thus, as the offering of a reward for reporting illegal activities has been sustained as consistent with the protection and welfare of the city and its citizens, a payment for reporting of a broken water line be also sustained. Recognizing the importance of protecting the city and its property from harm, a city should have the authority to encourage its citizens to report city property damage.

It is to be noted, however, that the Michigan Constitution requires that expenditures and appropriations of public money by municipalities and indebtedness created by them be for a public purpose as distinguished from a private one. Const 1963, art 7, Sec. 26. A 'public purpose' has for its object the promotion of the public health, safety, morals, general welfare, security, prosperity, and contentment of all the inhabitants or residents within the municipal corporation. Hays v City of Kalamazoo, 316 Mich 443, 454; 25 NW2d 787, 790-791 (1947), Gregory Marina, Inc v City of Detroit, 378 Mich 364, 396; 144 NW2d 503, 516 (1977).

The charter of the city of Lincoln Park Chapter 1, section 1, provides in part that:

'. . . The City of Lincoln Park may do any acts to advance the interests of the city, the safety, order, good government, general welfare and prosperity of the municipality and its inhabitants, and may make all laws and ordinances relating to municipal concerns, and those which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.'

Further, Chapter VI, pertaining to the 'Powers of City and Council' states in part in section 2 that:

'The council shall have power to prohibit, prevent, and suppress . . . 18, injury or annoyance from anything dangerous, offensive, or unhealthy.'

And, Chapter VI, section 32 reads in part that:

'The council shall have full power to provide . . . for any act to advance the interest, the good government and prosperity of the city and its inhabitants; and shall further have authority to enact all ordinances and to make all regulations consistent with this charter and the laws and constitution of this state as they may deem necessary for the safety, order, and good government of the city and the general welfare of the inhabitants thereof.'

In my opinion, the expenditure of city funds for the reporting of a broken water line which resulted in a saving to the city confers a benefit to a significant part of the public. By acknowledging such conscientious conduct, citizen involvement is promoted in a manner that effects the public health, safety, general welfare, and good government. Therefore, city funds may be expended for such a purpose by the city of Lincoln Park.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General