Appointments & Vacancies FAQ 3
What is the proper procedure for resigning from a municipal elective or appointive office?
Section 17.01, Stats., sets out the procedure municipal officers must follow when resigning from office. That statute provides that resignations must be made in writing and addressed and delivered to the officer or body prescribed by statute. Sec. 17.01(13). City officers such as the mayor and members of the council must address and deliver resignations to the council by leaving a copy of the resignation with the city clerk. Other elected city officers must address and deliver resignations to the mayor. Resigning appointed city officers must present the resignation to the officer or body authorized to fill the vacancy. Sec. 17.01(8) and (13)(b).
All village officers, except the village clerk, must address and deliver resignations to the village board by leaving a copy with the village clerk. Sec. 17.01(10) and (13)(b). A resigning village clerk must present the resignation to the village president. Sec. 17.01(13)(b).
A resignation may be either immediate or prospective. Except for officers whose terms continue by law until a successor is chosen and qualifies, a resignation takes effect "at the time indicated in the written resignation." Sec. 17.01(13). If no time is indicated in the written resignation, the resignation takes effect immediately upon delivery. Sec. 17.01(13).
Resignations by officers whose term of office continue by law until a successor is chosen and qualifies, take effect upon the qualification of the successor. Sec. 17.01(13). This provision does not apply to any elective municipal offices since such offices are vacant upon the expiration of the incumbents’ term. Sec. 17.03(10). The statutes explicitly provide, however, that appointed village and city officers serve until their successors are appointed and qualify unless otherwise provided by ordinance. Sec. 61.23(1) and sec. 62.09(5)(e), as modified or created by 2009 Wis Act 173. Therefore, a resignation by an appointed officer would not take effect until the successor is appointed and qualifies.
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has concluded that under sec. 17.01(13), resignations may be made on a conditional basis. In Ortin v. Schuett, an elected town treasurer submitted a letter of resignation to the town board indicating that the resignation would take effect on November 1, conditioned upon the board authorizing an independent audit to clear her name. On November 6 the treasurer wrote another letter to the board withdrawing her resignation after noting that November 1 had passed without action being taken on the audit. The board met on November 6, accepted the treasurer's resignation effective November 1, and appointed a new treasurer. The court held that the treasurer's resignation never took effect because the board did not order an audit. The court concluded that the language in sec. 17.01(13) allowing an officer to indicate the "time" a resignation takes effect does not preclude the officer from conditioning a resignation on the happening of a future event. According to the court, an officer may indicate that a resignation will be effective when certain specified conditions are met. The public office holder remains in office until those conditions are met.
There is no need for the governing body or officer to whom a resignation is presented to formally accept the resignation. The resignation takes effect at the time indicated in the resignation or immediately upon delivery regardless of whether it has been officially accepted by the body or officer to whom it is addressed.
Once a resignation takes effect, the officer cannot withdraw it. It should be noted, however, that a common council or village board may reappoint a person who resigns from the governing body to fill the vacancy created by the resignation if the resigning officer later changes his or her mind. Also, any officer may withdraw a prospective resignation before it takes effect.