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OSA Seal Technicalities
 

Technicalities is a monthly publication of Office of the State Auditor, Department of Technical Assistance. The purpose of this newsletter is to communicate information concerning inquiries to the Office of the State Auditor. The interpretations herein are those of the Department of Technical Assistance.


February 2004


The Technical Assistance Division would like to congratulate Mark Houston on his new position as Comptroller for Madison County. We will miss you, Mark. Also, we welcome Pat Dendy from the Investigative Division to the Technical Assistance Division.


Q: How can the bills of the 2004 session of the Mississippi Legislature be followed?
A: Legislative Services has a web site with current and recent year´s bills listed with their status. Select "Bill Status" at www.ls.state.ms.us to find bills for viewing or printing.

Q: May local governments set reimbursement rates for travel at amounts less than state law provides?
A: Yes. Section 25-3-41 establishes maximum amounts, not minimum. Local policy may further limit reimbursement amounts and impose additional requirements such as individual meal limits.

Q: May a governing authority allow a high bidder to withdraw his bid for the purchase of surplus property after the bids have been opened?
A: A bid may only be withdrawn where an honest mistake is made in the bidder´s computations and where the bidder so advises the public agency receiving the bids. (Attorney General´s Opinion to Oakes dated January 23, 2004)

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SCHOOLS

Q: May a school district continue to pay a teacher assistant who leaves the district to do his/her student teaching in another district?
A: A school district should compensate a teacher assistant while that individual completes his/her student training in that district. The district is not required to pay the salary of an assistant teacher while such individual is completing student teaching requirements in another district. (Attorney General´s Opinion to Lee dated December 12, 2003)

Q: Is there any limitation on the percentage that can be awarded to an architect, engineer, or other designer who creates design plans and supervises the building and construction of structures for schools? May a school district establish a sliding scale compensation percentage for architects, engineers, or other designers based on the total value of the project at issue?
A: There is no statutory limitation on the amount that a school district may pay to an architect, engineer or other designer who will supervise the construction of structures for a particular school district. The fees must be no more than a reasonable amount. A school district may set a policy which sets the amount of compensation to be paid for these particular services. Although the school district has the authority to base the compensation on a percentage of the total value of the construction project, the negotiated contract must set forth a fixed fee so that the exact amount can be included within the budget of the school district. (Attorney General´s Opinion to Adams dated January 29, 2004)

Q: May a school district allow a professional basketball team to use the high school gym? May or must the school district ask for compensation for said use of gym?
A: Section 37-7-301(k) allows a school board "to authorize the use of the school buildings and grounds for the holding of public meetings and gatherings of the people under such regulations as may be prescribed by said board...". Whether a situation constitutes a public meeting or gathering must be decided on a case by case basis. Section 37-7-301(s) allows school boards the discretion to determine whether an organization´s function is "beneficial to the official or extracurricular programs of the school" in which case an organization shall not be required to pay for the use of a school facility. In any case, the school district may require compensation for use of the property. (Attorney General´s Opinion to Adams dated January 30, 2004)

Q: In regard to separation of powers, within what branch of government does a school board member fall?
A: School board members are within the executive branch. (Attorney General´s Opinion to Brown dated January 23, 2004)


Q: Does the Mississippi Code require that a licensed social worker perform investigations of neglect and abuse as contemplated by the Youth Court Act and related statutes?
A: State law does not require that only licensed social workers perform investigations of neglect and abuse. (Attorney General´s Opinion to Alfonso and Ward dated January 7, 2004)

Q: May a county enter into a contract with a private water association whereby the county will contribute to the construction cost of the association´s water well in return for a guaranty of the provision of a certain amount of water from that well to supply the county´s industrial park?
A: Yes, the county´s rights to the water should be evidenced by a deed similar to those commonly used in mineral conveyances. (Attorney General´s Opinion to Dabbs dated January 9, 2004)

Q: May a Mississippi county do road work in an adjoining state on a roadway that is partially located in the State of Mississippi?
A: A county´s conventional authority over its public roads does not include the authority to do road work in another state on a road which lies partially in the State of Mississippi. The county may wish to explore the use of a Regional Economic Alliance as established by Section 57-64-1 if economic development is involved. (Attorney General´s Opinion to Chamberlin dated January 29, 2004)

Q: May a supervisor donate the use of his or her property to the county for storage of equipment and stockpiling of supplies?
A: There is no prohibition against a supervisor donating the use of his or her property to the county as long as no compensation or consideration is paid by the county and as long as any improvements thereon remain the property of the county and are removed by the county at the end of the term of use. The full board of supervisors must approve any placement of county property there and /or acceptance of any donation to the county. (Attorney General´s Opinion to Gore dated January 16, 2004)

Q: May a board of supervisors make a donation to a non-profit animal shelter?
A: No. Section 19-3-40 allows a county to enter into a contract with a private non-profit corporation or association for services. Any contract providing for these services would be in addition to, and would not supplant, the sheriff´s duties as provided in Mississippi Code Section 41-53-11. (Attorney General´s Opinion to Spragins dated January 21, 2004)


Q: When may a member of the public inspect the accounting records of a municipality?
A: Section 21-15-21 provides that such records may be inspected at any time during business hours.

Q: Does state law establish business hours for municipalities?
A: No, reasonable business hours must be established by board policy or municipal ordinance. Office hours are established by state law for certain county and state offices under Section 25-1-98 and Section 25-1-99.

Q: Does a municipal alderman have the authority to place items on the agenda of a municipal board meeting?
A: Yes, each alderman has the right of full participation in the conduct of city business and should not be denied the right to place items on the agenda as long as a request is timely made. (Attorney General´s Opinion to Belk dated January 16, 2004)

Q: Does the mayor have the sole right to remove items from the agenda prior to the meeting?
A: No, the mayor does not have the sole right to remove items from the agenda prior to the meeting or to establish the order of the agenda. The board of aldermen, by majority vote, has ultimate control of the agenda. (Attorney General´s Opinion to Belk dated January 16, 2004)

Q: Must the municipal clerk furnish copies of various municipal records to an individual municipal board member without board approval or pursuant to an adopted board policy regarding public records?
A: As a general rule, municipal board members are entitled to reasonable access to information required to perform the duties of the office and may request that the city clerk provide that information in a reasonable and timely manner. A request for municipal records necessary for the performance of his or her duties made by a member of the municipal governing authority should not be treated in the same fashion as a request from the general public with regard to method of request or time frame of response, unless the governing authority, in its policy, has specifically imposed these procedures on itself. There is no requirement for the full board to approve a board member´s request for copies of municipal records, unless a policy is adopted establishing such a procedure. (Attorney General´s Opinion to Stovall dated January 6, 2004)

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