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Administrative Departments, Board, and Commissions

In order to assist in the administration of municipal affairs, provisions are made by statute or charter, for various boards, commissions, or departments.  A governing body of a municipality may delegate to such boards, commissions, or departments the authority to promulgate administrative rules and regulations.

A municipal legislative authority is vested with the power to establish and abolish a particular board in its discretion.  The general rule is that municipal administrative boards have no powers other than those expressly granted by the law or necessarily implied from it.  It is clear that governmental agencies have only those powers which are conferred expressly or by necessary implication and the principle of strict construction must be applied in interpreting statutory grants of power[i].

Some statutes set forth all the duties, powers, and general obligations that are to be held by a city’s commission on human rights[ii].  Some of the duties are the duty to receive and investigate complaints of various civil rights violations, to render assistance in the enforcement of those rights, to inquire into complaints of discrimination and other deprivations of rights involving various departments of city government, city schools, and federally assisted housing[iii].

Whereas, the powers of a commission must be expressly provided by the legislature.  The commission can exercise only such powers that are specially conferred by statute.  Generally, the judgment of municipal departments, boards, and commissions in the execution of powers conferred on them by law or charter are not subject to control and correction by the courts[iv].  Even if there is a mistake or a misunderstanding, the court has no power to review the findings and acts of the board of estimate in its capacity as a legislative body[v].

Generally, the power to employ counsel is not deemed incidental to administrative boards and does not exist.  However, counsel can be employed under express statute or ordinance.  The mode and manner of the procedure of municipal boards, commissions, and other similar bodies may depend upon the manner of their composition or constitution or upon the nature and character of the duties to be performed[vi].

[i] King v. New York City Dep’t of Corrections, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20282 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 29, 1999).

[ii] Yonkers Com. on Human Rights v. Yonkers, 654 F. Supp. 544 (S.D.N.Y. 1987).

[iii] Id.

[iv] Moran V. Detroit Bd. Of Election Commrs., 334 Mich. 234 (Mich. 1952).

[v] Greenberg v. New York, 152 Misc. 488 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1934).

[vi] Burke v. Cleveland, 17 Ohio Dec. 408 (Ohio C.P. 1905).

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