Foster Swift Municipal Law News
With an election year comes questions on municipal election matters. This month, we answer a few commonly asked questions about municipal elections, qualifications for office, events that disqualify one from running for office, and receipt of donations.
Is a candidate for public office disqualified if the candidate files bankruptcy?
Generally speaking, no. Though qualifications for municipal office depend to some extent on whether you’re talking about county, city, village, or township offices, there are very few transgressions that prevent a person from seeking office. For township offices, a person is eligible to a township office only if the person is a registered and qualified elector of the township in which election is sought by the filing deadline. A person is not eligible for election or appointment if the person has been convicted of a violation of MCL 38.412a (unlawfully providing the exam or answers to classified service exam) in the past 20 years. As to city and village offices, the respective charters typically govern qualifications.
The Michigan Constitution has another clause regarding who is disqualified for elective or appointed local office. A person is ineligible for election or appointment to any state or local elective office – and ineligible to hold a position in public employment that is policy-making or that has discretionary authority over public assets – if within the immediately preceding 20 years, the person was convicted of a felony involving dishonesty, deceit, fraud, or a breach of the public trust and the conviction was related to the person's official capacity while the person was holding any elective office or position of employment in local, state, or federal government.
What about state senators and representatives? Are they prohibited from running for office if they file bankruptcy?
Generally speaking, no. Each senator and representative must be a citizen of the United States, at least 21 years of age, and an elector of the district he or she represents. A person is not eligible for either house of the legislature if the person has been convicted of subversion or has, within the preceding 20 years, been convicted of a felony involving a breach of public trust.
A township board adopted an ethics ordinance stating that anyone seeking township office may not accept donations from any company doing business with the township. Is this enforceable under the United States Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission?
Citizens United concerned spending that was independent of candidates and did not concern contributions directly to candidates. This question relates to direct contributions to candidates, which Citizens United does not disturb. There may be other reasons to challenge a "no contribution" clause in an ethics ordinance, but not Citizens United.