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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 - www.ag.state.mi.us)



Opinion No. 6169

July 15, 1983


City commission denial of request of member for information to be compiled by city manager

A city commission may, by lawful action taken of its members, deny a request of one of its members for information to be compiled regarding activities of the city.

Honorable Jerome Hart

State Senator

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan

You have requested my opinion on the following question:

May the Bay City City Commission deny a request by one of its city commissioners made pursuant to Bay City Charter, art 4, Sec. 28, for information regarding activities of the city where responding requires making a compilation, summary or report of the information?

You advise that your question is based upon the following factual situation: A city commissioner of Bay City has requested that the city manager provide the city commissioner the following information in regard to all consultant studies contracted by the city within the last 12-year period:

1. The name of the study;

2. The purpose of the study;

3. The consultants who performed the study;

4. The price to the city of the study;

5. The result of the study and the benefits to the taxpayers;

6. Present location of the study;

7. Whether the study's results or conclusions were ever made a part of city policy or commission action, and, if so, when, where, how, etc.;

8. How the study request was generated;

9. Whether there was a lack of sufficient supervision;

10. Whether there was an absence of competition;

11. Whether there were questionable fees or questionable costs;

12. Whether there was a doubtful need for the study;

13. Whether the study was unnecessarily contracted out;

14. Whether there was a potential duplication with past studies or past city staff work;

15. Whether the contract was hastily drawn up for the study;

16. Whether there was possible favortism in awarding the study; and

17. Whether the cost of the study equaled or surpassed savings in tax dollars to the city/citizens.

The city manager did not provide the information requested. Subsequently the city commissioner made a written request under Bay City Charter, art 4, Sec. 28, that the city commission direct the city staff to provide him with the information requested. It appears the city commission did not affirmatively respond to the city commissioner's request. You advise that the city has no existing report amassing the information requested, and the city staff would have to compile the information and prepare a report in order to provide the city commissioner with the information requested.

Bay City Charter, art 4, Sec. 28, provides, in pertinent part:

'Members of the city commission shall deal with administrative officials and employees solely through the city manager, except for the purpose of inquiry or for obtaining or furnishing information, and no member of the city commission shall interfere directly or indirectly with the conduct of any department of the city government or give any orders to any of the department heads, administrative officials, or employees either publicly or privately.'

This section of the Bay City Charter allows a city commissioner to request information directly from the city manager, but it does not require the city manager to provide the information requested by the city commissioner.

1909 PA 279, Sec. 3; MCLA 117.3; MSA 5.2073, provides that home rule cities, such as Bay City, must provide in their charters for 'a body vested with legislative power.' Bay City Charter, art 4, Sec. 4, provides:

'The legislative powers of the city shall be vested in the commission herein provided for and in the people as in this Charter hereinafter provided. The commission may adopt resolutions, bylaws and ordinances on any subject within the scope of the powers of the city.'

Also, Bay City Charter, art 25, Sec. 12, provides that the city commission has the power to supervise and direct city officers and employees when it states:

'Whenever by any franchise, grant, license, agreement, contract, or otherwise, any right, power duty or authority is reserved to the City of Bay City or to any officer, the same shall devolve upon the city commission, created and established by and under this Charter, to be exercised by them directly or through such officers or employees of the city as may be this Charter or by ordinance or other action of the city commission be designated to perform the same or similar rights, powers, duties or authority.'

Therefore, the city commission has authority to order the city manager to prepare a report and provide it to a city commissioner. The city commission acts only as a body at official meetings duly assembled, and the power of the city commission is exercised through its resolutions and ordinances. County of Saginaw v Kent, 209 Mich 160, 167; 176 NW 601 (1920), approvingly quoted from 11 Cyc p 391 the following language:

"The powers of county boards must be exercised by them as boards and not as individuals. An individual member unless expressly authorized cannot bind the county by his acts, . . .." County of Saginaw v Kent, supra, 209 Mich 160, 167.

See also, Crain v Gibson, 73 Mich App 192; 250 NW2d 792 (1977); lv den, 400 Mich 828 (1977); 4 McQuillin, Municipal Corporations (3d ed), Sec. 13.07, p 519.

Also, OAG, 1977-1978, No 5286, p 403, 404 (March 31, 1978), states, in pertinent part:

'[A]n individual councilman, acting in his individual capacity and apart from the governing body, cannot transact city business. Hence, such city councilman, acting in his individual capacity, has no greater right to participate in city business than other members of the citizenry.'

Bay City Charter, art 4, Sec. 6, in keeping with this authority, provides that a majority of the city commissioners constitute a quorum and that no business shall be transacted except on the vote in the affirmance of at least five members of the city commission.

It is my opinion, therefore, that a city commission may, by lawful action of its members, deny a request by one of its members for information regarding activities of the city when reponding requires making a compilation summary or report of the information.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General

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