Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Can a mayor compromise a lawsuit?

Specifically, can a city mayor unilaterally compromise a lawsuit against the city, without council approval?

To borrow a phrase from John Palmore, retired three-time Chief Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court, "the woods are not full of law on the subject, but what little there is suggests" . . . maybe.

Consider the following:
"First, a city attorney may negotiate on behalf of a municipality, but he lacks authority to bind the City Council. Louisville Civil Service Board v. Blair, 711 S.W.2d 181, 184 (Ky. 1986); Ashland Lumber Co. v. Williams, 411 S.W.2d 909, 910-11 (Ky.1966). Any terms that may have been orally agreed upon . . . had to then be agreed to by a majority of the City Council before becoming the foundation of a written contract that would ultimately be signed by Mayor Rainwater to become effective."

Snowden v. City of Wilmore, 412 SW 3d 195, Ky. App. (2013)
In mayor-council plan cities, however, mayors are given the specific authority to make contracts. KRS 83A.130(8) states: 
"All bonds, notes, contracts and written obligations of the city shall be made and executed by the mayor or his agent designated by executive order."
 Settlement agreements to compromise lawsuits are contracts. See Snowden, supra. The overarching budgetary framework within which mayors function constrains a mayor's ability to expend public funds without council's legislative authorization. A mayor may unilaterally compromise any lawsuit brought by or against a city if it does not involve an expenditure, but a compromise that requires a payout of city funds is permitted only if the city budget makes allowance for the settlement payment.

A mayor lacks this unilateral authority in a commission plan or manager plan of city government.

Settlement agreements, like all city contracts, must be in writing and signed by the Mayor. City officials may not make enforceable oral or implied contracts. City of Greenup v. Public Service Commission, 182 S.W.3rd 535, Ky App. (2005). 


Tom Fox, J. D.
Southern Specialty Law Publishing Company
Louisville, Kentucky

A division of Accountable Kentucky Incorporated
a Kentucky Non-profit corporation

----------- oOo ----------

Self-help Law Books on Amazon
Subscribe to RSS Post feed

This is not legal advice and I am not a lawyer.

No comments:

Post a Comment