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 - http://www.ag.state.mi.us)
STATE OF MICHIGAN
BILL SCHUETTE, ATTORNEY GENERAL
INCOMPATIBLE PUBLIC OFFICES ACT:
GENERAL PROPERTY TAX ACT:
BOARD OF REVIEW:
County commissioner and member of board of review.
The Incompatible Public Offices Act, 1978 PA 566, MCL 15.181 et seq., prohibits an individual from holding the office of board of review member while also holding the office of county commissioner in the same county.
Opinion No. 7297
August 31, 2017
Mr. Nick A. Khouri
430 West Allegan Street
Lansing, MI 48922
You have asked whether serving as a board of review member while also serving as a member of a county board of commissioners in the same county violates the Incompatible Public Offices Act (IPOA), 1978 PA 566, MCL 15.181 et seq.
The IPOA prohibits the same person from simultaneously holding two or more incompatible public offices. Subsection 2(1), MCL 15.182(1), provides: “Except as provided in section 3, a public officer . . . shall not hold 2 or more incompatible offices at the same time.” A “public officer” includes a person “elected or appointed” to a “public office of a city, village, township, or county in this state.” MCL 15.181(e). As elected or appointed officials, county commissioners and board of review members are “public officers” for purposes of the IPOA.
See OAG, 2015-2016, No. 7289 (April 11, 2016); OAG, 2009-2010, No. 7256, p 184 (December 21, 2010); OAG, 1991-1992, No. 6737, p 191 (October 28, 1992).
Subsection 1(b), MCL 15.181(b), defines incompatible offices as follows:
“Incompatible offices” means public offices held by a public official which, when the official is performing the duties of any of the public offices held by the official, results in any of the following with respect to those offices held:
(i) The subordination of 1 public office to another.
(ii) The supervision of 1 public office by another.
(iii) A breach of duty of public office.
Therefore, a determination must be made whether one of these two public offices is subordinate to, or supervises, the other, or whether the simultaneous holding of these public offices results in a breach of duty. To make this determination, it is necessary to examine the relationship of the two offices to the assessment process.
Members of a county board of commissioners are elected officials generally responsible for managing the legislative and administrative affairs of the county. Const 1963, art 7, §§ 7, 8; MCL 46.1 et seq.; MCL 46.401 et seq.
Township and city boards of review are established under section 28 of the General Property Tax Act (GPTA), 1893 PA 206, MCL 211.28. A board of review hears protests from property owners disputing the valuations and classifications established by local assessors for property tax purposes or claiming entitlement to an exemption from taxation. Members of a township board of review are appointed by the township’s board of trustees. MCL 211.28(1). City board of review members are appointed pursuant to city charter or city ordinance. MCL 211.28(4).
A board of review is tasked with ensuring that the valuation of property on the assessment roll is “relatively just and proper under” under the GPTA. MCL 211.30(4). To that end, the board has broad authority to “do whatever [ ] is necessary to make the roll comply with” the GPTA. MCL 211.29(2). More specifically, in regard to property assessment and valuation, the board of review has the authority to consider objections to the assessment roll, and where sufficient cause is shown, change the assessed values or tentative taxable values of property, add property to the assessment roll, and exempt or remove personal property from the assessment roll. MCL 211.30. After the board of review completes its review, makes any changes, and approves the assessment roll, the roll is delivered to the county equalization director. MCL 211.30(6), (7).
After delivery, the board of county commissioners examines the roll. MCL 211.34(1). The board of county commissioners takes the final action on county equalization by examining the township and city assessment rolls and ascertaining whether the real and personal property on the local rolls has been equally and uniformly assessed at true cash value. MCL 211.34(2). The board of county commissioners has the authority to, if necessary, modify any local assessment it deems to be unequal by adding to or deducting from the valuation of the taxable property on a local roll. Id.
Accordingly, both the local board of review and the board of county commissioners have an oversight role in the assessment process. But within that process, it is the board of county commissioners that makes the final determination, with the authority to modify any prior decisions made at the township or city level, including decisions made by the local board of review. Consequently, in the assessment hierarchy, the board of county commissioners has, in effect, a supervisory role over the township and city assessing entities, including the boards of review. As a result, the offices of county commissioner and local board of review member are incompatible under subsection 1(b)(ii), MCL 15.181(b)(ii), of the IPOA. Because the offices are incompatible under subsection 1(b)(ii), it is unnecessary to address the other categories set forth in subsections 1(b)(i) and (iii). MCL 15.181(b)(i), (iii).
This conclusion is consistent with prior opinions of this office that have considered the compatibility of separate public offices that each participate in the assessment process. For example, prior opinions have concluded that incompatibility exists between the offices of township assessor and county commissioner, see OAG, 1991-1992, No. 6737, p 191 (October 28, 1992) and OAG, 1979-1980, No. 5626, p 537 (January 16, 1980), and between the offices of township board of review member and county assessor, see OAG, 1975-1976, No. 5050, p 506 (June 16, 1976). See also, OAG, 1987-1988, No. 6418, p 15 (January 13, 1987) (offices of county commissioner and city treasurer incompatible). In each circumstance, the county-level public office was deemed to serve in a supervisory capacity over the local-level public office.
It is my opinion, therefore, that the IPOA prohibits an individual from serving as a local board of review member while also serving as a county commissioner in the same county.
 While sections 7 and 8 of article 7 of the Michigan Constitution refer to a “board of supervisors,” state statutes use the term “county board of commissioners” pursuant to 1966 PA 261, MCL 46.401 et seq. See also Advisory Opinion re Constitutionality of 1966 PA 261, 380 Mich 736; 158 NW2d 497 (1968); and In re Apportionment of Ontonagon County Board of Supervisors, 11 Mich App 348; 157 NW2d 698 (1968).