Before beginning their official duties, newly elected and reelected city officials need to take an oath of office. There are several rules as well as a timeline to follow to successfully complete the oath of office. Additionally, elected officials as well as some city staff members are bonded by their city as insurance against wrongful or negligent actions of officials when handling public funds.
Oath of Office Requirements
As described in Code of Iowa Chapter 63, every elected and appointed officer must take a prescribed oath prior to beginning duty. The actual wording of the oath, as stated in Section 63.10 of the Code, should substantially be: “I, (name of officer), do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Iowa, and that I will faithfully and impartially, to the best of my ability, discharge all the duties of the office of (name of office) in (name of city), as now or hereafter required by law.”
City clerks should also take the oath and give the bond as often as the clerk is appointed. For example, if the clerk is appointed for a two-year term, then a new bond must be given and the oath taken every two years.
Elected officers must take the oath after being certified as elected and before beginning the duties of the office. Oaths can be given any time after the election results have been certified. Code Section 63.1 states the final day to administer the oath is noon on the first working day following the New Year’s Day observation that is not a Sunday. The oath of office must also be completed by those who have been reelected. Persons elected or appointed to fill vacancies must take the oath no later than 10 days from the election or appointment. If there a contest to the election results, the eventual winner must take the oath within 10 days after the contest decision is rendered.
While the Code requires that oaths be taken by these deadlines, it does allow them to be administered earlier. However, if an officer is prevented from qualifying within the prescribed time due to sickness, inclement weather, unavoidable absence or casualty, the officer may take the oath within 10 days from the time the preventive situation is resolved.
Administering the Oath
At the city government level, the mayor and city clerk are authorized to administer oaths. State law also empowers a number of others to administer oaths and take affirmations, such as a justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, a judge of the court of appeals and district courts, a clerk of the supreme or district court and a notary public. For a complete list of authorized individuals, please refer to Chapter 63A of the Code.
Public Official Bonding
In addition to taking the oath of office, certain city officials must also give bond prior to beginning their duties as required by Chapter 64 of the Code. A bond is essentially an insurance measure that involves taking a pledge to reimburse the municipality against costs and other losses resulting from the wrongful or negligent actions of officials when handling public funds. As detailed in Section 64.2, the conditions of bonds should substantially be:
“That as (name the office), in (name of city), the officer will render a true account of the office and of the officer’s doings therein to the proper authority, when required thereby or by law; that the officer will promptly pay over to the officer or person entitled thereto all moneys which may come into the officer’s hands by virtue of the office; that the officer will promptly account for all balances of money remaining in the officer’s hands at the termination of the office; that the officer will exercise all reasonable diligence and care in the preservation and lawful disposal of all money, books, papers, securities, or other property appertaining to that office, and deliver them to the officer’s successor, or to any other person authorized to receive the same; and that the officer will faithfully and impartially, without fear, favor, fraud, or oppression, discharge all duties now or hereafter required of the office by law.”
Most cities meet the requirement for bonding by purchasing a “blanket bond” which covers several or all of the required city officials and employees. This blanket bond can typically be included with the property and liability insurance carrier.
Bonds are not required of city council members, including city commissioners and aldermen, but mayors are required to be bonded. The council shall require bonds from all other officials or employees that have the authority to handle and disperse public funds. The most likely candidates are the city manager or administrator, city clerk, deputy clerk, treasurer or finance officer, mayor and mayor pro tem. The city may cover all officers and employees who are not required to file individual bonds with a blanket surety bond. While state law does not provide information on the specific bonding amount, there is a provision in Section 64.13 that allows the city council to prescribe the amount by ordinance. Action by any officer in an official capacity without giving bond when it is required is grounds for removal from office.
Bonds shall be approved by the council or as provided by ordinance. A bond must be approved or disapproved within five days after its presentation. If approved, the bond must be endorsed and filed. The record of bonds of all city officers must be kept by the city. Code Section 64.24 requires that the city clerk record the bonds in a book known as the Record of Official Bonds. However, this requirement may be essentially met by keeping copies of the bonds on file.