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2014 New Year's "Resolutions"

Posted Date: 
December 1, 2013
Harold Blattie, Executive Director & Sheryl Wood, Associate Director, Shantil Siaperas, Legislative Analyst & Communications Specialist

It’s time once again for the Annual New Year’s Resolutions reminders! This is to remind you of certain duties and requirements for Commissioners. The first Commission meeting of the year is a good time to adopt policies and set guidelines for the year.

This annual notice may look familiar, but please review the items carefully as items have been added and/or updated!

NOTE: Not have all of these actions need to be done annually, but it is a good idea to review and update if needed and remind the public, the media, elected officials and employees, as appropriate.

Adopt a resolution setting commissioner meeting dates: (7-5-2122, MCA)

(1) The governing body of the county shall establish by resolution a regular meeting date and notify the public of that
(2) The governing body of the county, except as may be otherwise required of them, may meet at the county seat of their respective counties at any time for the purpose of attending to county business. Commissioners may, by resolution and prior two days' posted public notice, designate another meeting time and place.

Elect a Presiding Officer of the Board: (7-4-2109, MCA)

The board of county commissioners must elect one of its members presiding officer. The presiding officer shall preside at all meetings of the board, and in case of the presiding officer's absence or inability to act, the members present shall select one of their number to act temporarily as presiding officer.

Establish Office Hours: (7-4-102, MCA)

(1) Unless otherwise provided by law, each officer shall keep the officer's office open for the transaction of business during the office hours determined by the governing body by resolution after a public hearing and only if consented to by any affected elected county officer each day except Saturdays and legal holidays.
(2) County and city treasurers may, in the interest of the safekeeping of funds, securities, and records under their control, close their offices during the period from noon to 1 p.m. every day.

Courthouse Closures on Non-Legal Holidays

MACo has been asked whether or not County Courthouses and County Offices may be closed on the day after Thanksgiving (or on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, Good Friday or any other day not specified as a holiday). The short answer to the question is no for all of the line county offices headed by elected officials with the notable exception of the County Commissioner’s office.

County offices and operations not enumerated in 7-4-2211, for example the Commissioners’ office, county road department, solid waste, weed or health departments may be closed although employees in those departments may not be granted holiday pay or required to take leave for a closure on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

NOTE: As of the 2013 Legislative session, it is in statute that the Friday preceding one of the enumerated holidays is now a legal holiday for counties.

Read the entire memo regarding closures on non-legal holidays by clicking here.

Set and/or Modify Per Diem/Travel Rates

It is recommended that counties adopt a resolution establishing mileage, lodging and per diem rates for business travel. For information on these rates, please refer to MCA §§2-18-501. Meals, lodging, and transportation of persons in state service; 2-18-502. Computation of meal allowance; and 2-18-503 Mileage – allowance.

7-5-2145. Attendance at meetings and conventions by county officers and employees.

(1) Unless otherwise provided by law, a county officer or employee may not receive payment from any public funds for traveling expenses or other expenses of any sort for attendance at any convention, meeting, or other gathering of public officers except for attendance at a convention, meeting, or other gathering as the officer or employee may by virtue of the office find it necessary to attend.
(2) Any member of the board of county commissioners is allowed actual transportation expenses and per diem for attendance at any general meeting of county commissioners or assessors held within the state, and the proportionate expenses and charges against each county as a member of the association must also be paid.
(3) **NOTE** County attorneys, sheriffs, assessors, and justices of the peace may attend their respective meetings or conventions held within the state and are allowed actual traveling expenses for attending the meeting or convention of their peers.
(4) Any county officer paid on a per-day basis for performance of official duties is allowed the per-day rate of pay for attendance at any convention, meeting, or other gathering of public officers that the officer may by virtue of the office find it necessary to attend.

Attorney General Opinion No. 42 A.G. Op. 124 (1988), concluded: “In attending the annual state convention for the office held, a county attorney, sheriff, assessor, or justice of the peace is entitled to obtain “actual traveling expenses” which may exceed the levels established in a county travel policy.”

For more information regarding the standard mileage rate, visit the Internal Revenue Service website at:

The state lodging rate is $83; high-cost areas include Big Sky/West Yellowstone - Gallatin County; Butte - Silver Bow County; Helena - Lewis & Clark County; Missoula - Missoula County; Polson - Lake County; Kalispell - Flathead County; Sidney - Richland County; and Glendive - Dawson County. For more information, visit the General Administration Services website at

Establish the rate of credit for incarceration: (46-18-403, MCA)
46-18-403. Credit for incarceration prior to conviction.

(1) A person incarcerated on a bailable offense against whom a judgment of imprisonment is rendered must be allowed credit for each day of incarceration prior to or after conviction, except that the time allowed as a credit may not exceed the term of the prison sentence rendered.
(2) A person incarcerated on a bailable offense who does not supply bail and against whom a fine is levied on conviction of the offense may be allowed a credit for each day of incarceration prior to conviction, except that the amount allowed or credited may not exceed the amount of the fine. The daily rate of credit for incarceration must be established annually by the board of county commissioners by resolution. The daily rate must be equal to the actual cost incurred by the detention facility for which the rate is established.


7-4-2105. Term of office.

(1) The term of office of county commissioners is 6 years unless otherwise provided for under a plan of government provided for in a county adopting an optional or alternative form of government. A county commissioner takes office at 12:01 a.m. on January 1 succeeding the date of the election at which the county commissioner was elected.
(2) A county commissioner elected to take office shall take the oath of office on or before the last business day of December following the commissioner's election, except as provided for in 7-4-2106.

7-4-2209. Authority to administer oaths.

Every officer mentioned in 7-4-2203(1) may administer and certify oaths.

7-4-2203. County officers.

(1) There may be elected or appointed the following county officers, who shall possess the qualifications for suffrage prescribed by the Montana constitution and other qualifications as may be prescribed by law:

(a) one county attorney;
(b) one clerk of the district court;
(c) one county clerk;
(d) one sheriff;
(e) one treasurer;
(f) one auditor if authorized by 7-6-2401;
(g) one county superintendent of schools;
(h) one county surveyor;
(i) one assessor;
(j) one coroner;
(k) one public administrator; and
(l) at least one justice of the peace.

7-4-101. Filing of oath of office.

Every oath of office, certified by the officer before whom the same was taken, must be filed within the time required by law, except when otherwise specially provided, as follows:

(1) in the office of the secretary of state for all officers whose authority is not limited to any particular county;
(2) in the office of the clerk of the respective county for all elected or appointed officers for any county, all officers whose duties are local or whose residence in any particular county is prescribed by law, and the clerks of the district courts.

Appoint Commissioner Liaisons to County Boards

This is a good opportunity for you to appoint your representatives to County boards and commissions.

Establishment of County Classification no Longer Required

HB 212 in the 2011 Legislative Session eliminated county classifications and replaces references to county classifications with a taxable valuation amount or population.

Bond Inspection: (7-4-2213, MCA)

(1) At a regular meeting of the board of county commissioners in March and September of each year, the board of county commissioners shall carefully examine all official bonds of all county and township officials then in force and effect and investigate the qualifications and financial condition and liability of all sureties on the bonds and their sufficiency.
(2) If it appears to the satisfaction of the board or a majority of the members of the board that any surety upon any bond has, since the approval and acceptance of the bond, died or withdrawn, left the state, disposed of all of the surety's property in this state, or become mentally ill, insolvent, financially embarrassed, or not good and responsible for the amount of the liability on the bond, the board shall immediately cause the clerk of the board to notify in writing the judge of the district court of that district of its action and conclusion and all facts in connection with and the reasons for the action.
(3) The judge shall take notice of and investigate the matter and take steps, by order to show cause or other order, citation, step, or action, as may be necessary to make the bond good and sufficient according to the requirements of law and ample security for the amount of the bond.

It is recommended you note in your minutes that you’ve reviewed your bonds, and if applicable, found them to be covered within your insurance policies.

Board meeting minutes must be available within 21 days: 7-5-2123. Publication of board proceedings and annual financial statement.

(1) (a) The board of county commissioners has jurisdiction and power, under the limitations and restrictions prescribed by law, to publish in a newspaper at the adjournment of each session of the board, in full and complete detail or in summary form or by reference, with the full and complete text made available on request, a complete list of all claims ordered paid for all purposes, showing the name, purpose, and amount, and a fair summary of
the minutes and records of all of its proceedings.
(b) The board may publish the county clerk's annual statement of the financial condition of the county, in full and complete detail or in summary form. If the board does not publish the annual statement in complete detail or in summary form, it shall publish a notice that the annual statement is available and will be provided upon request
from the county clerk.
(2) Publication in full, in summary, or by reference of the minutes and records of proceedings must be made within 21 days after the adjournment of the session. Publication of the financial statement or notice of the availability of the financial statement must be made within 30 days after the presentation of the financial statement to the board. The board may not allow or order paid any claim for any publication of minutes and records of proceedings or annual financial statement unless the publication is made within the time prescribed in this subsection.

Use of Montana-made wooden materials in county road projects: (7-14-2142)

When the board of county commissioners authorizes a construction or reconstruction project on a county road, it shall require the use of Montana-made wooden guardrail posts, fence posts, and signposts when appropriate and when the cost of wooden materials is less than or equal to the cost of other materials.

Effective October 1, 2011 - Use of Montana-made wooden materials in wooden county bridge projects: (7-14-2407)

When the board of county commissioners authorizes a construction or reconstruction project for a wooden county bridge, it shall require the use of Montana-made wooden decking, guardrail posts, fence posts, and signposts when appropriate and when the cost of wooden materials is less than or equal to the cost of other materials.

MACo recommends that bid specifications state that Montana made wooden products must be used on road and bridge projects unless the cost is higher than other materials.

Submission of financial reports to the Department of Administration and penalties for failure to comply:

2-7-503. Financial reports and audits of local government entities.

(1) The governing body or managing or executive officer of a local government entity, other than a school district or associated cooperative, shall ensure that a financial report is made every year. The financial report must cover the preceding fiscal year, be in a form prescribed by the department, and be completed and submitted to the department for review within 6 months of the end of the reporting period.

2-7-517. Penalties -- rules to establish fine.

(1) When a local government entity has failed to file a report as required by 2-7-503(1) or to make the payment required by 2-7-514(2) within 60 days, the department may issue an order stopping payment of any state financial assistance to the local government entity or may charge a late payment penalty as adopted by rule. Upon receipt of the report or payment of the filing fee, all financial assistance that was withheld under this section must be released and paid to the local government entity.
(2) In addition to the penalty provided in subsection (1), if a local government entity has not filed the audits or reports pursuant to 2-7-503 within 180 days of the dates required by 2-7-503, the department shall notify the entity of the fine due to the department and shall provide public notice of the delinquent audits or reports.
(3) When a local government entity has failed to make payment as required by 2-7-516 within 60 days of receiving a bill for an audit, the department may issue an order stopping payment of any state financial aid to the local government entity. Upon payment for the audit, all financial aid that was withheld because of failure to make
payment must be released and paid to the local government entity.
(4) The department may grant an extension to a local government entity for filing the audits and reports required under 2-7-503 or may waive the fines, fees, and other penalties imposed in this section if the local government entity shows good cause for the delinquency or demonstrates that the failure to comply with 2-7-503 was the
result of circumstances beyond the entity's control.
(5) The department shall adopt rules establishing a fine, not to exceed $100, based on the cost of providing public notice under subsection (2), for failure to file audits or reports required by 2-7-503 in the timeframes required under that section.

Changes in Publication Notice Regarding Failure of the Newspaper to Publish the Second Notice: (7-1-2121 M.C.A.)

If the newspaper fails to publish a second notice, the local government unit must be considered to have met the requirements of this section as long as the local government unit submitted the required information prior to the submission deadline and the notice was posted in three public places in the county that were designated by resolution and, if the county has an active website, was posted on the county's website at least 6 days prior to the hearing or other action for which notice was required.

As always, if you have any questions on these or any other matters, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Montana Association of Counties
2715 Skyway Drive
Helena, MT 59602
(406) 449-4360

Harold Blattie | | Sheryl Wood | | Shantil Siaperas |