Commissions FAQ 1

What is the difference between a committee and a commission or a board?
The terms "board" and "commission" are synonymous and are used interchangeably to refer to independent bodies authorized by ordinance or statute to perform a particular function in local government or administer a particular municipal department. Statutory boards and commissions include the plan commission, the zoning board of appeals, the board of review, the library board, the utility commission, the park board and the police and fire commission. Some of these boards are optional while others are mandatory. Members of boards and commissions are considered municipal officers and are appointed for specific terms. The composition, method of selecting members, duties and powers of statutory boards and commissions are set forth in the statutes authorizing or mandating the creation of such bodies.

Municipalities may create other, non-statutory boards and commissions to address local concerns and issues. The size, composition, function and powers of such bodies are as set forth in the ordinances creating them.

Committees are different from boards and commissions. Committees are sub-units of municipal governing bodies. Committees are created by the governing body and typically are comprised exclusively of governing body members. The state statutes contain no provisions relating to the appointment of committees by the common council or village board.

Committees perform various functions such as: conduct investigations, review and make recommendations concerning pending legislative proposals, monitor and report on the work of various municipal departments and officers, study particular problems and recommend possible solutions, and otherwise perform detailed work which it would not be feasible for the entire governing body to accomplish or which would be too time consuming for the entire body to perform.

Committees are solely creatures of the governing body and consequently have only as much authority as delegated to them by the governing body. Typically, committees merely recommend actions to the governing body.