Compatibility of Offices 5

Does Wisconsin law allow a municipal police officer to simultaneously serve on the governing body of his or her employer municipality?

No. The compatibility of office doctrine prohibits a municipal employee from simultaneous service on the governing body of his or her municipal employer. Otradovec v. City of Green Bay 118 Wis.2d 393, 347 N.W.2d 614 (Ct. App. 1984). This rule is not rendered inapplicable by either Wis. Stat. secs. 164.015 or 164.06.

Section 164.015 provides that “[n]o law enforcement officer may be prohibited from engaging in political activity when not on duty or not otherwise acting in an official capacity. . . .” Although the section protects a law enforcement officer’s right to engage in political activity, it does not specifically authorize the officer to serve on the governing body of his or her municipality while also being employed by the municipality on a part-time or full-time basis. Thus, sec. 164.015 does not remove the common-law incompatibility between the position of police officer and the elective office of alderperson, trustee, mayor or village president.

Section 164.06 allows a police officer to be a candidate for elective office. The term “candidate” is not defined in chapter 164. However, in the context of local office, Wis. Stat. sec. 11.0101(1)(a) defines “candidate” as an individual who files nomination papers with the appropriate filing officer;  is nominated as a candidate for office by a caucus and the nomination is certified to the appropriate filing officer; or who receives a contribution, makes a disbursement or consents for another to make a contribution or disbursement in order to get nominated or elected to a local office.  “Candidate” is also defined as “a person who seeks an office, honor, etc., or a person who is selected by others as a contestant for an office, honor, etc.” The Random House Dictionary of The English Language, 304 (2d ed., unabridged). Once a police officer is elected to the position of alderperson, he or she would no longer be a candidate under either definition. Thus, 164.06 would not remove the common-law incompatibility between the position of police officer and the elective office of alderperson, trustee, mayor or village president.