Recent Attorney General Opinion Potentially Limits Building Official Options

Posted on August 6, 2015 by Dene Westbrook

In many communities around the state it has been common practice for years to have either privatized some function of the building department or shared those duties with neighboring municipalities. Last month, the Attorney General released an opinion stating the building official must be directly employed by a municipality so as to keep the policing powers within the local unit of government (opinion here:  After a meeting with the Attorney General’s office, it is clear their interpretation of the law is building inspectors can be employed by a third party but the building official themselves must be directly employed by the municipality and not by contract or arrangement with a third party or other unit of government.

This calls into question not only third party contracts but also arrangements between municipalities where the building official is not the direct employee of each entity. In many situations the building official is shared amongst multiple jurisdictions but employed by only 1 of those municipalities.

We are heavily involved in this issue and have requested the following feedback from each community to provide as much data as possible as we look for possible solutions to this problem:

  1. How is your building official employed (through the community directly, through a third party, through an authority, shared with a neighboring municipality)?
  2. If through an authority, what is the name of that authority and who operates the authority?
  3. If through a third party, which company?
  4. If shared among municipalities, with whom and which municipality employs that building official?

If your community is negatively impacted by this opinion, I would encourage you to reach out to your legislator and convey to them the impact this would have on your building department operations and the potential to increase costs in your budget.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or feedback on this issue.

Nikki Brown is a legislative associate with the League handling economic development and land use issues.  She can be reached at [email protected] or 517-908-0305.

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