The creation of this handbook is a response to years of frustration experienced by newly elected mayors and council members and newly appointed municipal clerks who have had little in the way of accessible resource materials. The high turnover rate of these municipal officials’ results in continuous erosion of the knowledge base and skills required to operate and maintain efficient, responsive and trusted municipal government in Montana.

The authors are experienced practitioners of Montana’s municipal government as elected or appointed municipal officials or consulting experts who share an abiding commitment to the cause of good government in Montana’s cities and towns. They view this handbook as a “work in progress” that simply had to get started even if our first efforts are imperfect. We will rely upon those who must meet the daily challenges of governing Montana’s 127 cities and towns to help us improve, correct, update and enlarge what we hope will be a useful tool for municipal officials.

Prudent mayors, council members and municipal clerks all recognize the need for the assistance and legal counsel of an experienced city attorney and will understand that this handbook is not and cannot be a substitute for competent legal opinion. Rather, the handbook is intended to serve merely as an easily accessible first reference for local officials seeking an entry point into the resolution of common municipal issues. The statutory citations included herein are provided primarily for the convenience of the consulting city attorney who may be new to the local government venue and unfamiliar with the unusual organization of Title 7 of the Montana Code Annotated.

The authors are grateful to the MSU Local Government Center and to the Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority for the resources to undertake this project. We also wish especially to thank the Montana Municipal Clerks, Treasurers and Finance Officers Association for their unwavering support of the accomplishment of a useable handbook. However, errors and omissions are the responsibility of the authors, especially the editor, and should not be attributed to Montana State University, the Local Government Center or the Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority. We will welcome enthusiastically all criticism and corrections offered by the reader, which may be communicated directly to the Local Government Center at Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717.

Kenneth L. Weaver, Editor


Our work is dedicated to all those who serve in Montana’s local governments.