Election day has come and passed and its passing brings new political faces and a renewal of some incumbent ones. Many government positions, and especially those with fiduciary duties, will require posting of a public official bond before officials will be allowed to be sw0rn in. Many federal, state and local positions compel placement of this class of surety bond. This type of bond is one of the oldest surety requirements in the United States. In 1792, Congress passed a law creating the office of Paymaster General and made the taking of office contingent on the positing of a $20,000 bond. Tax collectors, treasurers, town supervisors, county commissioners, judges, clerks of court and alcoholic beverage control board members are examples of commonly bonded positions. A public official surety bond is a sort of performance bond. These bonds provide protection to the government division on behalf the citizens and residents affected by the official’s acts. Unless bonds are required from an official’s deputies and subordinates, the official’s bond also covers those parties. Generally there are three types of acts covered by a public official bond.
1.) Misfeasance occurs where a public official fails to perform a duty of his or her office. It is a mistake or error without criminal intent or violation of law which causes damages to the public. Simply put misfeasance is the wrongful performance of a legal act.
2.) Nonfeasance is the result of a public official neglecting to perform a duty, that INACTION causing harm or damages to the public. Under tort law, an individual generally does not incur liability for a failure to act where the individual has no preexisting relationship with the injured party(ies). A public official is held to a different standard. His or her failure to act where the position requires he or she to do so is a violation and incurs liability.
3.) Malfeasance is the commission by public official of an act that is clearly illegal, completely wrongful and with nefarious intent. Dishonest acts for personal or third party benefit and knowingly exceeding authorities delegated to the public official are acts of malfeasance. Acts that clearly benefit the public official are obviously violations however acts such as adding a family member or friend to a public payroll also occur and do constitute intentional wrongdoing.
Public official bonds generally run concurrently with the official’s term of office. These obligations often contain a cancellation provision however cancellation for cause usually occurs where the official has committed some act that has necessitated a claim against the bond. This class of business is historically very stable and low loss however large bond penalties require a surety underwriter to consider carefully the wording of the obligation, the underlying statutory responsibilities placed on the public official, his or her education, training and experience for the position and where money handling duties are imposed, that the applicant has demonstrated responsible, adult management of his or her personal financial affairs.
National surety leader, Surety One, Inc. offers this class of bond to all elected and appointed officials at all levels of government, school boards and public/private positions. Our special underwriting strategy permits us to offer a public official bond to an public officer regardless of his or her credit situation. For more information visit us at SuretyOne.com, call (800) 373-2804, or email us at Underwriting@SuretyOne.com.
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