History: 1971 c. 134
; 1973 c. 118
; 1973 c. 334
; 1973 c. 336
; 1975 c. 93
; 1975 c. 116
; 1977 c. 427
; 1979 c. 34
; 1981 c. 4
; 1983 a. 29
; 1983 a. 192
, 303 (1)
, (2); 1983 a. 484
; 1983 a. 532
; 1985 a. 29
; 1989 a. 56
; 1991 a. 5
; 1993 a. 490
; 1995 a. 16
; 1995 a. 201
; Stats. 1995 s. 59.10; 1997 a. 35
; 1999 a. 150
; 2001 a. 107
; 2003 a. 32
; 2005 a. 100
; 2007 a. 72
; 2011 a. 39
; 2013 a. 14
; 2015 a. 196
; 2017 a. 207
See s. 17.21 (5)
for provision as to filling vacancies on county boards in counties over 750,000.
See s. 59.20 (1)
for county supervisor residency requirements.
See s. 66.0505
for restrictions on changes in compensation of county board members.
Judicial relief is available if a county fails to follow the statutory requirements for redistricting. City of Janesville v. County of Rock, 107 Wis. 2d 187
, 319 N.W.2d 891
(Ct. App. 1982).
The trial court properly voided a city's supervisory district plan and adopted the county's plan even though the county did not adopt the plan within 60 days of receiving census data as required by sub. (3). County of La Crosse v. City of La Crosse, 108 Wis. 2d 560
, 322 N.W.2d 531
(Ct. App. 1982).
Sub. (3) (a) does not establish a separate minimum for each class of county. The constitutionality of sub. (3) (a) is discussed. 60 Atty. Gen. 327.
A vacancy on a county board due to resignation may be filled by appointment by the county board chairperson when the board is not in session. 61 Atty. Gen. 1.
An incumbent county supervisor must resign before the county board may consider his or her appointment as highway commissioner. 61 Atty. Gen. 424.
A county board supervisor risks violations of s. 946.13 if he is appointed as counsel for indigent defendants. 62 Atty. Gen. 62, 118.
Under sub. (3) (c) alteration of county supervisory district boundaries between decennial censuses is authorized only when ward boundaries originally relied upon in reapportioning the county have been subsequently altered by incorporation, annexation, detachment, or consolidation. 63 Atty. Gen. 544.
Section 59.06 (2) (intro.) [now s. 59.13 (2) (intro.)] does not prohibit payment of additional mileage under s. 59.03 (3) (g) [now sub. (3) (g)]. 68 Atty. Gen. 73.
State law does not prohibit either discontinuation of all health insurance for county supervisors in self-organized counties during supervisors' terms of office or modest but involuntary increases in health insurance premiums for county supervisors in self-organized counties during supervisors' terms of office. OAG 5-11
A tribal law enforcement officer who is an active duty deputy sheriff, but is not on the county's payroll, may not serve as a county board supervisor. Under sub. (4), the office of county supervisor is incompatible with the office of active duty deputy sheriff, even if the deputy sheriff is not paid by the county. OAG 3-13
The provision of health, dental, and life insurance and the payment of insurance premiums for county supervisors are not “compensation" under sub. (3). Thus the procedural requirements of that statute are inapplicable to motions or proposals to change those benefits. OAG 5-13
Meetings; adjournment; absentees. 59.11(1)(a)
Every board shall hold an annual meeting on the Tuesday after the 2nd Monday of November in each year for the purpose of transacting business. Any board may establish by rule an earlier date during October or November for the annual meeting and may by rule establish regular meeting dates throughout the year at which to transact general business. When the day of the meeting falls on November 11, the meeting shall be held on the next succeeding day.
The annual meeting may be adjourned by the clerk, upon the written request of a majority of the supervisors, to a day designated in the request, but not less than one week nor more than 3 weeks from the Tuesday after the 2nd Monday of November. Upon such an adjournment being made, the clerk shall give each supervisor written notice of the time and place to which the annual meeting has been adjourned.
The board, except in counties with a population of 750,000 or more, shall meet on the 3rd Tuesday of each April to organize and transact business. At this meeting the board may transact any business permitted at the annual meeting, including the appointment of all county commissions and committees. The meeting may be adjourned in the same manner as the annual meeting.
A special meeting of the board shall be held:
Upon a written request of a majority of the supervisors delivered to the clerk, specifying the time and place of the meeting. The time shall not be less than 48 hours from the delivery of the request. Upon receiving the request the clerk shall immediately mail to each supervisor notice of the time and place of the meeting. Any special meeting may be adjourned by a vote of a majority of all the supervisors. The board by ordinance may establish a separate procedure for convening the board in a “declared emergency" as defined by county ordinance.
For the purposes and in the manner prescribed in s. 31.06
, with the right to adjourn the special meeting from time to time by a vote of a majority of all the supervisors entitled to a seat. The clerk shall mail written notice of the special meeting, specifying the time, place and purpose of the meeting, to each supervisor not less than 2 weeks before the day set for the meeting.
In a county with a population of 750,000 or more, upon a written request of the county executive delivered to the clerk which must have been approved by the county board chairperson, specifying the time and place of the meeting. The time shall not be less than 48 hours from the delivery of the request. Upon receiving the request and the approval of the county board chairperson, the clerk shall immediately mail to each supervisor notice of the time and place of the meeting. Any special meeting may be adjourned by a vote of a majority of all the supervisors.
All meetings shall be held in the county at places that are designated by the board. The board shall give adequate public notice of the time, place and purpose of each meeting.
The board shall sit with open doors, and all persons conducting themselves in an orderly manner may attend. If any supervisor misses or leaves a meeting of the board without good cause or without being first excused by the board, the chairperson may issue a warrant requiring the sheriff or some constable immediately to arrest and bring the supervisor before the board. The expenses of the arrest shall be deducted from the pay of the member unless otherwise directed by the board. The board may punish its members for infraction of its rules by imposing the penalty provided in the rules.
The board may appropriate funds to broadcast by radio or television, or to tape and rebroadcast, any meeting of the board held under this section.
A county clerk can adjourn a regular meeting of the county board when requested by majority of the elected members of the board. 61 Atty. Gen. 352.
Chairperson; vice chairperson; powers and duties. 59.12(1)(1)
The board, at the first meeting after each regular election at which members are elected for full terms, shall elect a member chairperson. The chairperson shall perform all duties required of the chairperson until the board elects a successor. The chairperson may administer oaths to persons required to be sworn concerning any matter submitted to the board or a committee of the board or connected with their powers or duties. The chairperson shall countersign all ordinances of the board, and shall preside at meetings when present. When directed by ordinance the chairperson shall countersign all county orders, transact all necessary board business with local and county officers, expedite all measures resolved upon by the board and take care that all federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations pertaining to county government are enforced.
The board at the time of the election of the chairperson shall also elect a member vice chairperson, for the same term, who in case of the absence or disability of the chairperson shall perform the chairperson's duties. The board at the time of the election of the chairperson may also elect a member 2nd vice chairperson, for the same term, who in case of the absence or disability of the chairperson and vice chairperson shall perform the duties of the chairperson. Except for the board of a county with a population of 750,000 or more, the board may provide for the payment of additional compensation to the vice chairpersons.
In case of the absence of a chairperson for any meeting the members present shall choose another member to be temporary chairperson.
A county board cannot adopt a resolution that infringes on the power of a succeeding board to elect its chairperson and vice chairperson. 61 Atty. Gen. 108.
Removal of the chairperson of a county board may be at the will of a simple majority of the board under this section. Section 17.10 is inapplicable. Nothing in this section requires the county board to have any particular reason for removing its chairperson. An incumbent chairperson may be removed at will by the county board simply by voting to elect someone else to that position. OAG 1-07
Committees; appointment; compensation. 59.13(1)(1)
The board may, by resolution designating the purposes and prescribing the duties thereof and manner of reporting, authorize their chairperson to appoint before June 1 in any year committees from the members of the board, and the committees so appointed shall perform the duties and report as prescribed in the resolution.
Except as provided under sub. (3)
, committee members shall receive such compensation for their services as the board allows, not exceeding the per diem and mileage allowed to members of the board and the committee members shall receive such compensation, mileage and reimbursement for other expenses as the board allows for their attendance at any school, institute or meeting which the board directs them to attend. No supervisor shall be allowed pay for committee service while the board is in session, nor for mileage except in connection with services performed within the time limited under this subsection. The number of days for which compensation and mileage may be paid a committee member in any year, except members of committees appointed to have charge of the erection of any county building, and except as otherwise provided by law, are limited as follows:
In counties containing less than 25,000 population, to 20 days, not more than 10 of which shall be for services on any one committee, except that the board may increase the number of committee meetings under par. (b)
and similarly fix the compensation of the members for the additional meetings.
In counties with a population of 25,000 or more, to 30 days for services on committees, except that the board may, by a two-thirds vote of the members present, increase the number of days for which compensation and mileage may be paid in any year and fix the compensation for each additional day.
A supervisor in a county with a population of 750,000 or more may not accept any compensation in addition to his or her regular salary for serving as a member of any committee, board or commission appointed by the county board or by the county executive.
History: 1983 a. 192
s. 303 (1)
; 1985 a. 29
; 1995 a. 201
; Stats. 1995 s. 59.13; 2017 a. 207
A county board may not delegate appointment of committee members to a committee of the board. 61 Atty. Gen. 214.
Section 59.06 (2) (intro.) [now sub. (2) (intro.)] does not prohibit payment of additional mileage under s. 59.03 (3) (g) [now s. 59.10 (3) (g)]. 68 Atty. Gen. 73.
County board resolutions creating special or standing committees under this section or creating rules of procedure relative to executive matters or the administration of law are subject to veto in counties under 500,000 [now 750,000]. 68 Atty. Gen. 182.
A county board's power to delegate authority concerning property transactions to its committees is discussed. 74 Atty. Gen. 227
Except in self-organized counties under s. 59.03 (1) [now s. 59.10 (1)], a county board may not establish multiple per diem compensation for attendance at more than one committee meeting on the same day on days when the county board is not in session. 79 Atty. Gen. 122
Publication of ordinances and proceedings. 59.14(1)(1)
Whenever a board enacts an ordinance under this chapter the clerk shall immediately publish the ordinance either in its entirety, as a class 1 notice, under ch. 985
, or as a notice, as described under sub. (1m) (b)
; and the clerk shall procure and distribute copies of the ordinance to the several town clerks, who shall file it in their respective offices.
In this subsection, “summary" means a brief, precise, and plain-language description that can be easily understood.
A notice of an ordinance that may be published under this subsection shall be published as a class 1 notice under ch. 985
and shall contain at least all of the following:
A summary of the subject matter and main points of the ordinance.
Information as to where the full text of the ordinance may be obtained, including the phone number of the county clerk, a street address where the full text of the ordinance may be viewed, and a website, if any, at which the ordinance may be accessed.
The board shall, by ordinance or resolution, provide for publication in one or more newspapers in the county as a class 1 notice, under ch. 985
, a certified copy of all its proceedings had at any meeting, regular or special; said publication to be completed within 60 days after the adjournment of each session.
The board may at any meeting, regular or special, provide by resolution for the publication in pamphlet form by the lowest and best bidder therefor, of a sufficient and designated number of copies of its duly certified proceedings, for general distribution.
The board may order public notices relating to tax redemption and other affairs of the county to be published in a newspaper printed in any other than the English language, to be designated in such order, whenever the board considers it necessary for the better information of the inhabitants of the county, and it shall appear from the last previous census that one-fourth or more of the adult population of the county is of a nationality not speaking the English language, and that there shall have been a newspaper published in the county continuously for one year or more in the language spoken by that nationality; but all of the notices shall also be published in a newspaper published in the English language as provided by law. The compensation for all of the publications shall be paid by the county ordering the publications, and shall be the same as that prescribed by law for publication in the English language; and no extra charge shall be allowed for translation in any case. No irregularity, mistake or informality in any such publication shall affect the validity or regularity of any tax redemptions or other legal proceedings.
History: 1987 a. 378
; 1995 a. 201
; Stats. 1995 s. 59.14; 2007 a. 72
; 2017 a. 365
Sub. (1) is discussed in reference to the effect of the failure to distribute and the requirements of distribution and publication. 62 Atty. Gen. 81.
Codification and publication of ordinances is discussed. 70 Atty. Gen. 124.
A county with a population of less that 250,000 is not required to designate an official newspaper. A county is not required to seek bids for the publication of legal notices. Even if a county does not competitively bid the publication of its own proceedings as provided in sub. (3), it may print its own proceedings or post them on its website. A county may not, in lieu of publication in a printed newspaper or posting on a physical bulletin board, post its legal notices on its official website. OAG 2-08
Neglect of duty.
Any supervisor who refuses or neglects to perform any of the duties which are required of the supervisor by law as a member of the board, without just cause therefor, shall for each such refusal or neglect forfeit not less than $50 nor more than $200.
History: 1991 a. 316
; 1995 a. 201
; Stats. 1995 s. 59.15; 1995 a. 225
; 1997 a. 35
A county board may provide for a penalty in the nature of a forfeiture for the violation of a code of ethics ordinance but may not bar violators from running for office. A violation is not a neglect of duties under this section or ipso facto cause for removal under s. 17.09 (1). 66 Atty. Gen. 148. See also 67 Atty. Gen. 164.
County executive. 59.17(1)(1)
Election and term of office. 59.17(1)(a)(a)
In each county with a population of 750,000 or more, a county executive shall be elected for a 4-year term at the election to be held on the first Tuesday in April of each year in which county supervisors are elected, and shall take office on the first Monday in May following the election. The county executive shall be elected from residents of the county at large by a majority vote of all qualified electors in the county voting in the election. In any county which attains a population of 750,000 or more, the first election under this paragraph shall be held on the first Tuesday in April in the year following the official announcement of the federal census.
Counties with a population of less than 750,000 may by resolution of the board or by petition and referendum create the office of county executive or abolish it by petition and referendum. If the office of county executive is abolished, the person serving in the office shall complete the term to which elected. The county executive shall be elected the same as a county executive is elected under par. (a)
for a term of 4 years commencing with the first spring election occurring at least 120 days after the creation of the office and shall take office on the 3rd Tuesday in April of that year. Such petition and election shall follow the procedure provided in s. 9.20 (1)
, except that in case of conflict this subsection shall control.
(2) Duties and powers.
The county executive shall be the chief executive officer of the county. The county executive shall take care that every county ordinance and state or federal law is observed, enforced and administered within his or her county if the ordinance or law is subject to enforcement by the county executive or any person supervised by the county executive. The duties and powers of the county executive shall be, without limitation because of enumeration, to:
Coordinate and direct all administrative and management functions of the county government not otherwise vested by law in other elected officers.
In any county with a population of 750,000 or more:
Appoint and supervise the heads of all departments except where the statutes provide that the appointment shall be made by a board or commission or by other elected officers. Notwithstanding any statutory provision that a board or commission or the county board or county board chairperson appoint a department head, except ss. 17.21
and 59.47 (3)
, the county executive shall appoint and supervise the department head. Except for a statutory provision which specifies that a board or commission or the county board shall supervise the administration of a department, the county executive shall administer, supervise, and direct all county departments, including any person who negotiates on behalf of the county, and the county board, other board, or commission shall perform any advisory or policy-making function authorized by statute. Any appointment by the county executive under this subdivision requires the confirmation of the county board unless the county board, by ordinance, elects to waive confirmation. An appointee of the county executive may assume his or her duties immediately, pending board action which shall take place within 60 days after the county executive submits the appointment to the board for confirmation. Any department head appointed by a county executive under this subsection may be removed at the pleasure of the county executive. The county executive shall comply with hiring policies set by the board when making appointments under this paragraph.
Establish departments in county government, and sections and divisions within those departments, that the county executive believes are necessary for the efficient administration of the county. Any department or subunit of a department that the county executive creates under this subdivision may not be established unless its creation and funding are approved by a vote of the board. The county executive shall administer, supervise, and direct any department or subunit of a department that is created under this subdivision, and those departments and subunits shall report to the county executive.
Exercise the authority under s. 59.52 (6)
that would otherwise be exercised by a county board, except that the county board may continue to exercise the authority under s. 59.52 (6)
with regard to land that is zoned as a park on or after July 14, 2015, other than land zoned as a park in the city of Milwaukee that is located within the area west of Lincoln Memorial Drive, south of E. Michigan Street, east of N. Van Buren Street, and north of E. Clybourn Avenue. With regard to the sale, acquisition, or lease as landlord or tenant of property, other than certain park land as described in this subdivision, the county executive's action need not be consistent with established county board policy and may take effect without submission to or approval by the county board. The proceeds of the sale of property as authorized under this subdivision shall first be applied to any debt attached to the property. Before the county executive's sale of county land may take effect, a majority of the following must sign a document, a copy of which will be attached to the bill of sale and a copy of which will be retained by the county, certifying that they believe the sale is in the best interests of the county:
An individual who is a resident of the city, village, or town where the property is located, who shall be appointed, at least biennially, by the executive council, as defined in s. 59.794 (1) (d)
. The individual appointed under this subd. 3. c.
may not be an elective official, and he or she must have demonstrable experience in real estate law or real estate sales or development.
Sign all contracts, conveyances, and evidences of indebtedness on behalf of the county, to the extent that no other county officer or employee is specifically required to sign such contracts, conveyances, and evidences of indebtedness, and countersign all other contracts, conveyances, and evidences of indebtedness. No contract with the county is valid unless it is signed or countersigned by the county executive and, as provided in ss. 59.255 (2) (e)
and 59.42 (2) (b) 5.
, by the comptroller and corporation counsel.
Introduce proposed ordinances and resolutions for consideration by the board.
Hire and supervise the number of employees that the county executive reasonably believes are necessary for him or her to carry out the duties of the county executive's office, subject to board approval of the county executive department budget.
Together with the commissioner of the opportunity schools and partnership program under subch. II of ch. 119
, solicit private gifts and grants for use by the commissioner to further the purposes of the opportunity schools and partnership program under subch. II of ch. 119
and without oversight or approval of the county board.
In any county with a population of 750,000 or more, appoint the following persons: