Welcome! We are delighted that you have chosen to join a City of Ann
Arbor board or commission. In so far as this service requires no prior
experience in public service, City staff designed this handbook to help
you navigate your new position. This guide will introduce you to local
government and provide some of the key information you will
need as you begin your new role on a board or commission in service to
the Ann Arbor community.
Boards and commissions are established to increase community input
and participation in City government and to enable the City Council
and other policy makers to gain additional knowledge, perspective, and
guidance on important issues as part of their decision-making process.
Some of the boards, committees and commissions exist to advise and
make recommendations to City Council, while others have distinct
regulatory responsibilities that are established by law. This guidebook
will help you learn about the different roles and responsibilities of each
board and how you can best serve the City and your board.
By accepting this appointment, you are now a vital part of your local
government’s effort to enrich community life on a wide variety of
issues. The greater the participation in the work of the board or
commission by its members, the greater the effectiveness that
body will be in carrying out its charge and ultimately assisting City
Council to improve
On behalf of the City of Ann Arbor, please accept our thanks for your
time, dedication, and commitment to serve. In this new role, you will
help to make the City a better place to live, work and visit, by bringing a
community member perspective to the governing process.
Congratulations and thank you!
The City of Ann Arbor appoints over
200 people to over 50 boards and
commissions that advise and assist
in carrying out the functions of local
government. These boards and
commissions provide a critical
reservoir of knowledge and
community input that inform City
policy and operations.
The City is a Council-Manager form
of government. Under this system,
the City Council (which includes the
Mayor) sets policies, while the City
Administrator is the chief executive
who implements those policies and
manages the daily operations of the
City. This is somewhat analogous to
a corporation, which is governed by
a board of directors, but managed
by a CEO. Over 750 City employees
work across over two-dozen
departments to deliver services to
the residents of Ann Arbor.
Most boards and commissions are
created by City Council resolution
or ordinance and serve as advisory
bodies to the City Council or City
Administrator. They provide
information, analysis, and
recommendations to City Council
and the City Administrator on
matters pertaining to the board or
A few boards and commissions
have the authority to make binding
decisions in certain matters, such
as the Planning Commission, Zoning
Board of Appeals, Historic District
Commission, and Building Board of
Appeals. These bodies generally
derive their decision-making
authority from state law.
Regardless of their specific duties,
each board and commission plays
an important part in City
government. Members of boards
and commissions perform a public
service and have both an obligation
and an opportunity to provide
thoughtful input that will help
shape their community. This
requires a thorough understanding
of their board or commission's role
as well as a willingness to engage
constructively with the public,
elected officials, and City staff.
Each board and commission has its
own duties, procedures, and
customs, so it may take some time
for new members to get up to
speed. The goal of this handbook is
to provide some basic information
and introductory guidance to help
with the transition.
Process for New Appointments
Appointees who have been confirmed by City Council will receive a letter
from the City Clerk's Office notifying them of their appointment. The
appointment letter will include information on the swearing-in process,
contact information for the staff liaison to the board or commission, and the
term start and end date. Commissioners should contact the staff liaison to
determine the first meeting for their appointed term. Prior to participating in
any meeting, commissioners are required to sign an oath of office. The oath is
currently digital and the oath is provided with your confirmation letter from
the Clerk's office.
Prior to your first meeting, you should familiarize yourself with the bylaws of
your board or commission and review the upcoming agenda materials. You
may also wish to review materials or videos from prior meetings. See the
Resources section of this handbook for links to access these materials. Your
staff liaison should also be able to provide you with a schedule of meetings
and any other pertinent information.
You can resign from your board at any time for any reason. If you would like to
resign from your position on your board or commission before your term
expires, please send an email to the Boards and Commissions Coordinator and
your designated Staff Liaison stating your board or commission name and the
effective date of resignation. Your resignation will be a included as a
communication at the next City Council meeting
Duties of Boards and Commissions
General Duties and Responsibilities of Appointees
Members of boards and commissions are appointive officers of the City and are
expected to uphold a high standard. Generally, the role of a member is to gather
information, discuss and deliberate with other members, and vote on recommendations
or decisions in accordance with the board or commission's stated purposes. Here are
some general tips and expectations:
- Act courteously during meetings and treat other members of the body, the public, and City staff with respect. Disagreements are inevitable, but appointees should remain civil and focus on issues rather than personal differences
- Observe good parliamentary practice. The chair's role is to run an efficient meeting while allowing all points of view to be heard and a full discussion. Assist the chair by being concise in making your points and not interrupting others
- Arrive to meetings on time and let your staff liaison and chair know if you will be absent. Unexpected absences can cause a meeting to be cancelled if not enough members are present to establish a quorum. If a quorum is not present the commission will be unable to conduct regular business, so as a courtesy to your fellow commissioners and the public, please provide advanced notice of any absences
- Come prepared. Review proposed minutes, agenda packets, and other information ahead of time to allow for informed deliberation
- Represent your board or commission appropriately. As an appointee, people may perceive you to speak on behalf of the City or your board or commission. Do not speak for your board of commission unless appropriately authorized to do so. Make clear that you are speaking in your personal capacity if there is any doubt
Duties of Specific Members and Information about Member Types
The bylaws of each board should state the number and type of members and
Most appointees are voting members of their board or commission. Voting
members have the right to speak, discuss, make motions, and vote on matters
before the body. Typically, only voting members are eligible to serve as officers,
including Chair and Vice Chair. A certain number of voting members are
required to be present to have a quorum to conduct business.
Many boards and commissions have non-voting members. Non-voting
members are typically there to provide a certain perspective or expertise. They
lack the right to vote but may participate in discussion. Non-voting members
may include members of the City Council, members of the City staff,
representatives from other boards, commissions, or organizations, or youth
Occasionally, boards and commission will have designated "liaisons". These
typically are representatives of other groups or entities that have expertise or
an interest in subject matter of the board or commission. Liaisons may be
described in the bylaws, but may also be ad hoc appointments. Liaisons
typically function similarly to a nonvoting member
A few key resources provide structure for operating a healthy board and commission. It is important to be knowledgeable about bylaws and other legislation surrounding boards and commissions.
When you are appointed, your staff
liaison should provide you with a copy
of the bylaws of your board or
commission. The bylaws will contain
most of the information you need to
perform your duties. The City's bylaws
are standardized for most boards and
commissions, with some specific
provisions applicable to each body.
The standard bylaws include sections on duties, ethics and
conflicts of interest, and procedural matters, including
scheduling, noticing, and conducting meetings and
preparation of agendas. If, after reviewing the bylaws, you
have questions or want clarification, contact your staff liaison
Open Meetings Act
City commissions are
expected to conduct themselves according to the procedures contained in the Michigan
Open Meetings Act (“OMA”). Essentially, this means that City commissions should
deliberate and make all their decisions during a public meeting, including a
full discussion of the reasons for those decisions. Commissioners should avoid
emailing, talking, or otherwise communicating with other members outside of a
public meeting about how they will vote, reasons for voting a particular way, or
the pros and cons of an issue or petition that may come before the commission.
avoid emailing the entire commission (or a quorum of the commission) about
commission business. If commissioners have factual information they wish to
communicate to the entire body, they should send it to the staff liaison and
request that it be provided to the body. Commissioners should never “reply to
all” if they receive such an email.
between commissioners outside of a public meeting may be necessary (for
example, when developing draft policy recommendations for presentation to the
full commission). In such cases, the discussions should involve as few commissioners
as possible and never involve a quorum. If the matter warrants substantial
discussion with multiple commissioners outside of the regular meeting schedule,
a subcommittee may be appropriate, the meetings of which would be posted and
open to the public.
Basic Rights of the Public during a meeting governed by the Open Meeting Act:
- The public can attend without a requirement to sign in
or identify themselves.
- The public can record or broadcast the proceedings if
they so choose.
- The public can address the body under rules
prescribed for public comment.
Freedom of Information Act
In general, records of the City are subject to disclosure under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Email communications about board or commission business are generally considered to be public records subject to disclosure under FOIA. For this reason, email correspondence regarding the board or commission's business should generally copy the staff liaison so that the City has a record of the correspondence. Commissioners are otherwise responsible for retaining and producing emails and other records, including text messages related to board or commission business that they have in their possession upon request by the City's FOIA Coordinator or the City Attorney's Office. Note that email addresses used by commissioners may be
subject to public disclosure, so commissioners may wish to create a separate
email address for commission business if they have privacy concerns.
Local Rules Relating to Meeting Documents
Public notice of meetings is provided
by posting a notice at City Hall, on the
City's website, and by mail to
interested parties who have requested
notice be sent to them directly.
There are two types of meetings:
regular meetings and special meetings.
Boards and commissions schedule
regular meetings at the start of each
year. Special meetings are called when
necessary to supplement the regular
meeting schedule. Special meetings
often focus on specific, urgent matters.
The bylaws will contain instructions and
timing for scheduling meetings.
Key Points for Scheduling Meetings:
- Each year, there are over 500 meetings of City
boards and commissions. Preferred meeting times
and venues—especially for televised meetings—
may limited, so it is important to begin planning
- Be aware that the City does not schedule
meetings for dates identified as City holidays
and/or other recommended holiday observances.
- Public notice is required for all public meetings.
Work with your staff liaison to make sure they
have time to prepare and distribute notices in a
Most boards and commissions meet remotely or
in hybrid formats. Your staff liaison will provide
assistance with setting up technology to
Agendas & Agenda Packets
Agendas are critical for keeping meetings on
topic and progressing in an efficient manner.
Agendas are typically developed by the staff
liaison in consultation with the Chair and are
posted online prior to each meeting. The bylaws
typically prescribe a standard agenda format
Agenda packets are the materials and
information that accompany agenda items for
each meeting. These are usually posted online
with the agenda and emailed to members.
Staff liaisons prepare minutes and the proposed minutes will be available for public inspection and for review by members of boards and commissions as well as the general public within 8 business days after the meeting to which the minutes refer. Boards, commissions, and committees review, correct, and approve proposed minutes at the next regular meeting.
Minutes conform to Open Meetings Act
requirements and provide a record of the date,
time, place and attendance of members at a
meeting along with a record of any decisions
made or roll call votes conducted at a meeting.
Minutes are not a transcription or a set of
notes recording the body's discussions.
Once the board, commission or committee approves a set of minutes, staff liaisons will make approved minutes available for public inspection within five business days after the meeting at which the minutes are approved. Staff liaisons will forward the approved minutes to the next available City Council agenda for filing. For convenience, minutes are typically available on the City Website.
Role of City Staff
Each board and commission has a staff liaison who provides professional and administrative support. Staff liaisons are the primary conduit for members of boards and commissions to communicate with the City. Your staff liaison should be your first contact if you have any questions related to your board or commission. Staff liaisons perform a variety of roles, including:
- Serving as a channel of communication between the board/commission and other City staff
- Creating meeting notices, preparing minutes, and creating agendas
- Scheduling meetings and booking meeting locations
- Maintaining board/commission records
- Coordinating the collection and distribution of information requested by the board/commission
City Clerk's Office
The City Clerk's Office provides a wide range of support and oversight to ensure meetings and records relating to boards and commissions are accurate and meet applicable requirements, including:
- Maintaining rosters by updating as needed with appointments and resignations.
- Reviewing, posting, and mailing out meeting notices prepared by staff liaisons.
- Arranging accessibility accommodations requested for accessibility at public meetings.
- Notifying the Mayor and City Council of terms set to expire.
- Supporting the application, appointment, and reappointment process.
- Preparing and sending oath of office cards to incoming appointees. Each new member must
complete the oath of office card prior to participating in any meetings and return the card to
the Clerk's Office for permanent filing.
- Managing compliance with internal and external laws, polices, and procedures.
- Providing annual training for appointees.
- Emailing all new appointees a letter, including information on the swearing-in process; the staff
liaison contact information; the expiration date of the appointee's term; and other information
the City Clerk deems appropriate.
- Being the point of contact for commissioners who are resigning from a board or commission.
City Attorney's Office
The City Attorney's Office also provides support for City boards and commissions, including:
- Reviewing and advising on bylaws
- Providing guidance on applicable procedural and legal requirements
The Executive Assistant to the Mayor supports the application and appointment process and assists the Mayor and City Council in the administrative work surrounding appointments.
Hopefully, the information on this page will assist you in preparing to serve on a City board or commission. If you have additional questions, there are many people who can help, including your staff liaison, the City Clerk's Office, and the chair and other members of your board or commission.
Ann Arbor Online Resources
The City uses software called Legistar to manage and publish the agendas, minutes, and materials for meetings of board and commissions, these materials are publically available on the Legislative Information Center.
Videos of many board and commission meetings are streamed live and available on demand by visiting CTN Live Stream Page.
Additional information is available on the Boards and Commissions Page.