Model City Charter—9th Edition: Article III: City Manager


In the council-manager plan, the city manager is continuously responsible to the city council, the elected representatives of the people.

Section 3.01. Appointment; Qualifications; Compensation.

The city council by a majority vote of its total membership shall appoint a city manager for an indefinite term and fix the manager’s compensation. The city manager shall be appointed solely on the basis of education and experience in the accepted competencies and practices of local government management.  Attention should be given to how the city manager expresses support for and enacts social equity.  The manager need not be a resident of the city or state at the time of appointment but may reside outside the city while in office only with the approval of the council.


Six of the twelve items in the Code of Ethics established by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) for members of the city management profession refer to the manager’s relationships to the popularly elected officials and to the community: 1

  • We believe professional management is essential to efficient and democratic local government by elected officials.
  • Demonstrate by word and action the highest standards of ethical conduct and integrity in all public, professional, and personal relationships in order that the member may merit the trust and respect of the elected and appointed officials, employees, and the public.
  • Submit policy proposals to elected officials; provide them with facts, and technical and professional advice about policy options; and collaborate with them in setting goals for the community and organization.
  • Recognize that elected representatives are accountable to their community for the decisions they make; members [of ICMA, i.e., city managers] are responsible for implementing those decisions.
  • Refrain from all political activities, which undermine public confidence in professional administrators. Refrain from participation in the election of the members of the employing legislative body [including the mayor].
  • Keep the community informed on local government affairs; encourage communication between residents and all local government officers; emphasize friendly and courteous service to the public; and seek to improve the quality and image of public service.

(The ICMA Code of Ethics can be found online. The other items in the code refer to the manager’s personal and professional beliefs and conduct.)

The ethical commitments of members of ICMA advance the values promoted in the Model City Charter.

As a professional administrator, the manager must be trained and experienced in the effective and equitable management of public service delivery. The manager must use this expertise to efficiently and effectively execute the policies adopted by the elected city council. Furthermore, the manager’s breadth of knowledge and experience in the increasingly complex areas of local government operations obligates him or her to assist the elected council in the policy-making process. The policy role of managers has been central to the definition of the manager’s position from the beginning and continues to be readily acknowledged.

Appointment of the manager by majority vote of the entire membership of the council, not simply a majority of a quorum, assures undisputed support for the appointee. Appointment “for an indefinite term” discourages contracting for a specified term or an arrangement that reduces the discretion of the council to remove a manager.

The requirement that the manager be “appointed solely on the basis of education and experience in the accepted competencies and practices of local public management” was added to the Eighth Edition to stress the basic principle of the council-manager form that the manager is a qualified professional executive. The precise level of education and experience required for the manager will vary from one municipality to the other depending on such factors as size of population and finances.

A useful guideline for the minimum qualifications for a city manager would be:

A master’s degree with a concentration in public administration, public affairs or public policy and two years’ experience in an appointed managerial or administrative position in a local government or a bachelor‘s degree and 5 years of such experience (for more information see ICMA‘s voluntary credentialing program at

While it is preferable for a manager to live in the community during employment, the Model does not require it. This flexible approach allows communities to attract and retain the most qualified individuals and accommodates the problem of housing availability and cost. It also enables two or more communities to employ a single manager.

Increasingly, appointment of the manager involves an employment agreement between the municipality and the manager. These agreements can cover all aspects of the manager’s job, including salary, other forms of compensation, duties, performance standards, evaluation, and severance procedures. Employment agreements provide mutual protection for the manager and the local government. However, they are not tenure agreements and do not impede the council’s power to remove the manager. (A model employment agreement can be found at

Section 3.02. Removal.

If the city manager declines to resign at the request of the city council, the city council may suspend the manager by a resolution approved by the majority of the total membership of the city council. Such resolution shall set forth the reasons for suspension and proposed removal. A copy of such resolution shall be served immediately upon the city manager. The city manager shall have fifteen days in which to reply thereto in writing, and upon request, shall be afforded a public hearing, which shall occur not earlier than ten days nor later than fifteen days after such hearing is requested. After the public hearing, if one is requested, and after full consideration, the city council by a majority vote of its total membership may adopt a final resolution of removal. The city manager shall continue to receive full salary until the effective date of a final resolution of removal.


This section provides an orderly removal procedure when a manager declines to resign at the request of the council. This section does not protect the city manager’s tenure. However, it assures that any unjust charges will come to light and be answered, by providing for presentation to the manager of a statement of reasons for removal in the preliminary resolution and the opportunity for the manager to be heard if he or she so requests. As an additional protection, this section requires a vote of a majority of all the members to pass a removal resolution, thereby preventing a minority from acting as the majority in a quorum. The council may delay the effective date of the final removal resolution in order to provide for termination pay. When an employment agreement exists between the city and the city manager, termination pay should be covered in that agreement.

Section 3.03. Acting City Manager.

By letter filed with the city clerk, the city manager shall designate a city officer or employee to exercise the powers and perform the duties of city manager during the manager’s temporary absence or disability; the city council may revoke such designation at any time and appoint another officer of the city to serve until the city manager returns.


To remove doubt as to the identity of the acting city manager, the manager must designate a city officer or employee to serve as acting city manager during the temporary absence or disability of the manager. The council is free, of course, to replace the acting city manager if it is dissatisfied with performance. The acting city manager is not entitled to the protection of the removal procedure afforded the manager by § 3.02.

Section 3.04. Powers and Duties of the City Manager.

The city manager shall be the chief executive officer of the city, responsible to the council for the management of all city affairs placed in the manager’s charge by or under this charter. The city manager shall:

(1) Appoint and suspend or remove all city employees and appointive administrative officers provided for by or under this charter, except as otherwise provided by law, this charter or personnel rules adopted pursuant to this charter. The city manager may authorize any administrative officer subject to the manager’s direction and supervision to exercise these powers with respect to subordinates in that officer’s department, office or agency;

(2) Direct and supervise the administration of all departments, offices and agencies of the city, except as otherwise provided by this charter or by law;

(3) Attend all city council meetings. The city manager shall have the right to take part in discussion but shall not vote;

(4) See that all laws, provisions of this charter and acts of the city council, subject to enforcement by the city manager or by officers subject to the manager’s direction and supervision, are faithfully executed;

(5) Prepare and submit the annual (or biennial) budget and capital program to the city council, and implement the final budget approved by council to achieve the goals of the city;

(6) Submit to the city council and make available and accessible to the public a complete report on the finances and administrative activities of the city as of the end of each fiscal year and provide information needed by the council for its annual evaluation of performance;

(7) Make available and accessible such other reports as the city council may require concerning operations;

(8) Keep the city council fully advised as to the financial condition and future needs of the city;

(9) Make recommendations to the city council concerning the affairs of the city and facilitate the work of the city council in developing policy;

(10) Provide staff support services for the mayor and council members;

(11) Assist the council to develop long term goals for the city and strategies to implement these goals;

(12) Encourage and provide staff support for partnerships with community organizations and for regional and intergovernmental cooperation and equitable programming;

(13) Promote partnerships among council, staff, and community members in developing public policy and building a sense of community; and

(14) Perform such other duties as are specified in this charter or may be required by the city council.


Although this section equips the manager with the necessary legal authority to discharge administrative responsibilities, the manager’s authority may be limited in some states by provisions of state constitutions or laws. The listing of the manager’s powers and duties assumes that the manager will not only perform managerial duties in the city’s operations but will also have a significant role in the development of policy. There are important policy implications in the manager’s duties to prepare and submit the budget; to report on the city’s finances, administrative activities, departmental operations and future needs; and to make recommendations on city affairs. The duty to provide staff support for the mayor and council members includes providing information on policy issues before the council.

The expanded duties listed in items 9, 11, and 13 of the eighth edition reflect the complex responsibilities assigned to managers to make the processes of governance work in the community. Constructive interactions among the local government, businesses, non-profits, faith-based and special interest organizations and neighborhood groups define a successful community. In a similar manner, the responsibilities anticipated in item 12 charge the manager with placing each community in the context of its region and promoting both community and regional interests.  Managers must inform and receive input from members of the community but also encourage their active engagement in city affairs.

Return to Model City Charter—9th Edition: Table of Contents

Some Related Posts

View All

Thank You to Our Key Partners