DOJ: News Release

McGrath: City Employees Assigned to Staff Planning Board are Supervised by City Manager

HELENA — A planning director and staff hired by a city and delegated under contract to also serve as staff to a city-county planning board may legally be supervised by the city manager rather than the planning board, Attorney General Mike McGrath concluded in an opinion issued Thursday.

Billings City Attorney Brent Brooks requested the opinion. Brooks asked whether, under an interlocal agreement between the City of Billings, the Town of Broadview and Yellowstone County, the city-county planning director and staff fall under the direct supervision of the Billings city manager or the planning board.

The opinion noted that Montana law specifically allows joint planning boards to appoint employees and to contract for “any professional services.” However, McGrath said that the board’s power to hire and supervise staff applies only to its “appointed” employees.

Information provided by Brooks with the opinion request indicated that the staff members serving the joint Billings-Broadview-Yellowstone County planning board are City of Billings employees. They are assigned various staffing functions for the board in addition to other zoning and planning duties that are city functions, not functions of the board.

According to McGrath, Montana law does not prevent the board from contracting with the city for the services of city employees. However, under the interlocal agreement, the board’s authority over “appointed” staff does not apply to the hiring and supervision of loaned city employees.

An attorney general’s opinion carries the weight of law unless the Supreme Court overturns it or the legislature modifies the laws involved.

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