History of the Municipal Clerk:
The term “Clerk” is an ancient and honorable one. It comes from the early middle ages when churches regulated many local government matters and only clergymen were educated and could write; therefore, the idea of a Clerk as a writer, keeper of records and local official comes from this history. The first settlers in America soon created the office of parish or town clerk, and the post continues today as an essential position in municipal government. Every municipality in the nation, regardless of size or form of government, usually has a clerk or equivalent position.
In Florida, the Municipal Clerk is an important and exacting position in municipal government. The Clerk is expected to know virtually everything about the operation of the municipal and how to accomplish all that needs to be done. Even when the Clerk is not an expert, the clerk’s office must know where to refer a question or problem for proper action or answer. The role of the municipal Clerk has been well described by the International Institute of Municipal Clerks:
“The Municipal Clerk’s office can be truly called the hub of local government. It is the Clerk who is the contact between the citizens and the government. It is he/she to whom most complaints are brought. The Clerk gives advice on many subjects, not necessarily relating to the government, but by his/her contact with the public, they for a great part place confidence in him/her as the one who can answer most any question. The Clerk can, if he/she so desires, wield a great measure of influence in his/her community.”
Professional Development and Advancement:
To be most effective and assure that proper laws and procedures are followed, the Municipal Clerk must keep abreast of new information and developments. This involves reading books and periodicals, consulting with colleagues, experts and professionals, and taking advantage of the opportunities for outside study through seminars, conferences, and college course work. The Municipal Clerk must keep abreast of changes in legislation and office technology. New statutes on public ethics, financial disclosure, and election laws must be closely monitored and observed. It is also important to be aware of changing trends and public opinion. The Municipal Clerk often serves as the public information officer and media contact for the municipal government. The Municipal Clerk has an obligation to serve faithfully the administrative authority of the municipality as well as the governing body.
International Institute of Municipal Clerks Professional Code:
- To uphold constitutional government and the laws of the community.
- To conduct their public and private life as to be an example to their fellow citizens.
- To impart to their profession those standards of quality and integrity that the conduct of the affairs of their office shall be above reproach and merit public confidence in their community.
- To be ever mindful of their neutrality and impartiality, rendering service to all and to extend the same treatment you wish to receive yourself.
- To record that which is true and preserve that which is entrusted to them as if it were their own.
- To strive constantly to improve the administration of the affairs of their office consistent with applicable laws and through sound management practices to produce continued progress and so fulfill my responsibilities to my community and others.
Under both state law and local ordinances, the Municipal Clerk is entrusted with numerous and diverse duties. In addition to the required duties performed, the clerk has many other responsibilities resulting from long-practiced local rules and customs. The administrative duties are as follows:
- Provide notary services.
- Furnish data to public information media.
- Receive and file bonds and insurance policies relating to municipally issued contracts.
- Direct complaints, correspondence and inquiries for action to various municipal departments.
- Prepare and maintain the records index system, oversee records management, retention, and destruction in accordance with state regulations.
- Conduct business with other municipal, county, state and federal agencies as directed by the governing body.
- Provide notification to municipal departments of expiration dates on various matters.
- Maintain and update municipal code.
- Attest official contracts and documents.
- Conducts municipal elections.
- Board and Committee liaison.
- Staffing for mayor and commissioners/council members.
The Municipal Clerk’s statutory duties are relatively fixed and regardless of the form of government, the Clerk is charged with the following statutory duties: secretary to the council (governing body); secretary to the municipal corporation; election official with judicial authority; and administrative official on the municipal level. As municipal secretary, the City Clerk:
- Record official minutes of Board of Commissioners.
- Handle municipal correspondence, both incoming and outgoing, as directed, or as requested by council and/or the municipal manager.
- Process, record, file and advertise ordinances, resolutions, and notices.
- Perform liaison work between the public and the council as may be directed.
- Administer and record oaths of office.
- Prepare and maintain custody of all official municipal records and files.
Secretary of the Municipal Corporation:
- Maintain custody of the municipal seal.
- Sign official documents.
- Maintain receipt of service and legal documents.
- Maintain the municipal code.
- Qualify candidates for local office
- Certify vacancies existing on the local level.
- Maintain receipt of any and all petitions, initiative or otherwise.
- Exercise quasi-judicial authority in determining the validity of petitions according to municipal code or state statutes.
- Approve local ballot for all elections.
- Furnish material for local elections.
- Maintain receipt of election results.
- Responsible for duties outlined in the City's Code of Ordinances.
Due to the close working relationships with a variety of individuals, the office of the Municipal Clerk is continuously under scrutiny. It is vital that staff in the office promote the highest quality of public relations yet protect the municipality’s interests and rights. Courteous and expeditious treatment in handling in-person, telephone, and written inquiries from the public can contribute significantly to the reaction the average citizen has to municipal government. Employees should be alert, prompt, courteous, neat, clean and appropriately dressed; their office area, desks, and equipment should be neat and orderly.
It is often the City Clerk’s responsibility to propose proclamations recognizing noteworthy events and activities.
Additional duties of the City Clerk: