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. 5273

February 24, 1978


Compensation of drain board members for attending meetings


Compensation of drain board members for attending meetings


Compensation of drain board members for attending meetings


'Per diem'

'Per meeting'

When more than one Chapter 20 drain board meetings are held on the same day at the same location, members of each of the drain boards are entitled to receive one per diem compensation for all such meetings, not a per diem compensation for each of the meetings held on that day.

When a member of the county board of commissioners incurs travel expenses to attend several drain board meetings held at the same location and on the same day pursuant to Chapter 20 or Chapter 21 of the drain code, the member may only collect mileage expenses for attending one meeting.

The Honorable Robert VanderLaan

State Senator

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan 48909

You have requested my opinion on the following question:

'When more than one Chapter 20 drain board meeting is held on the same day, are members of each Chapter 20 drain board to be paid a per diem for each separate drain board meeting or is payment limited to one $25 payment for that day?'

After I received your inquiry, I received a request from the Kent County Prosecuting Attorney wherein he asked my opinion on a closely related question. That question is:

Whether a county commissioner who serves on several drain boards organized under Chapter 20 or Chapter 21 of the Drain Code, may collect mileage expenses for attending each meeting of those different drain boards if those meetings are held consecutively at the same location on the same day.

The compensation of Chapter 20 drainage boards is dealt with in Sec. 464 of the Drain Code; MCLA 280.464; MSA 11.1464. Under Sec. 464 the drain commissioner, chairman of the county board of commissioners and the chairman of the county board of auditors serve on Chapter 20 drainage boards. If no county board of auditors exists in the county, the chairman of the finance committee of the county board of commissioners serves instead. In the event the county board does not have a finance committee, the chairman of the county commission may select another commissioner to serve.

A similar question was presented in 1964. (Informal Opinion to Auditor General Billie S. Farnum dated May 4, 1964.) In response to that question I answered:

'Under date of January 2, 1963 I issued my Opinion No. 4037, copy of which is attached for your reference, wherein I reached the conclusion that neither a county drainage district nor an inter county drainage district is a political subdivision or an instrumentality of the state or a juristic entity. For the reasons expressed in that opinion it is my further belief that each drainage district is not a separate legal entity. However, I point out that the Drain Code of 1956 provides by Section 464 for intra county drains under Chapter 20 and by Section 515 for inter county drains under Chapter 21 for a drainage board (Section 464) and an augmented drainage board (Section 515) to serve for each separate project established pursuant to the respective chapter provisions. The work of the drainage board so established is confined to the specific project. Thus it is possible for more than one project for an intra county drain under Chapter 20 to be in process at the same time. This is likewise true as to projects for inter county drains under Chapter 21. Under these sections the drainage board relates its authority to the specific project which provoked the drain proceedings. It logically follows that each meeting of a drainage board is independent of any other drain. It is my opinion that the chairman of the board of supervisors serving on drainage boards under Chapter 20 or augmented drainage boards under Chapter 21 shall receive per diem compensation from each drainage board although several board meetings were held on the same day. He would not, however, be entitled to more than one per diem payment per day for each drainage district.'

More significant is certain legislative action which occurred after the above-mentioned letter opinion. 1969 PA 285 amended Sec. 464 and other similar sections. The legislative history of that act, which was originally Senate Bill 310, indicates that the legislature dealt with three sections which concern the compensation of members of drain boards. These were Secs. 72, 464 and 515. While it is true that the amendment to Sec. 72 was the only one that specifically stated that members of the board shall not receive more than $25.00 per diem for any one day no matter how many separate matters are considered on that day, the change in language of Secs. 464 and 515 while the bill was under consideration indicates legislative intent that the same principle apply to meetings of the boards under Chapters 20 and 21. In both cases the bill, as originally introduced, provided that the compensation was not to exceed '$25 PER MEETING' but the words 'PER MEETING' were stricken and the legislature instead used the phrase 'PER DIEM'. Since the definition of 'per diem' is compensation to be paid for a day, the change indicates that the legislature intended to apply the same rate of compensation for all three sections. See 1 Senate Journal 1969, p 693-694, 1 Senate Journal 1969, p 858-859, 1 Senate Journal 1969, p 874, 2 Senate Journal 1969, p 1936-1937 and 3 Senate Journal 1969, p 2026.

I am therefore of the opinion that a member of a chapter 20 board my receive only 1 per diem in the amount of $25 or less for each calendar day even though that person may have been a member of more than one such board which held meetings on the same calendar day.

The mileage expenses that a drain board member is entitled to receive, is payment for the expense that person incurred in traveling to and from the drain board meetings. If a member incurs no additional expense and has been compensated for traveling to that location once, that member may not collect additional mileage for attending a meeting at a location that he or she is already at and has incurred no additional expense in getting to.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General