Developing and Executing Agreements between Agencies
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A contract allows your department to work with vendors and organizations to deliver services. It is a written agreement that specifies what will be done by whom, and what will happen if the duties are not carried out.
By carefully developing a contract and being specific in the duties and terms it contains, you can avoid litigation should something occur. Be sure to have the contract reviewed by legal counsel.
A contract does not relieve a board of its obligation to assure the vendor is in compliance with state and federal law, or that it provides clients with quality services while protecting them from fraud and invasion of privacy.
A CHB may find different types of contracts or agreements useful, depending on the degree of legal binding needed. If you are working with another unit of government, or if you are merely hoping to clarify duties rather than create a legally binding document, you might be better served by developing a memorandum of understanding, an inter-agency agreement, or a joint powers agreement. A delegation agreement is one type of inter-agency agreement.
If, after reviewing your options, you decide a contract is needed, talk to your county/city attorney. In many cases, your local unit of government will have already developed a standard contract form and process that you will need to follow.
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) is sufficient to create an understanding, in writing, between two or more organizations, to clarify roles and responsibilities in a non-binding situation. Any format can be used in creating an MOU, so long as it addresses the organizations' needs, conditions, and terms of agreement. MOUs are usually signed by the agency's director, or the organization's directors. MOUs are not usually considered legally binding, and would typically not need attorney review—because of this, they are not recommended for cases where money is involved, either for creating a joint fund or for one agency paying another for services.
An inter-agency agreement are often used when funds will be exchanged between agencies, either into a common pot (as in collaboratives) or in paying for services (for example, as with C&TC outreach services). Inter-agency agreements are usually executed between similar agencies; for example, between a county's human services and public health agencies, or between participating agencies in a family services collaborative. An inter-agency agreement is more formal and legally binding than an MOU, and has a more structured legal format. Inter-agency agreements are usually signed by a board member or county administrator, and can be reviewed by a county attorney or other attorneys.
An inter-agency agreement could include: an introductory "whereas" clause, parties to the agreement, purpose of the agreement, population to be served, composition and duties of any governing and/or advisory group, duties of any lead agency and/or fiscal agent, duties of the non-lead party or parties, financial agreements, amendment procedures, agreement withdrawal procedures, the length of time under which the agreement is effective, and signatures.
Related Chapter: Environmental Health Delegation Agreements
A CHB may authorize a township board, city council or county board within its jurisdiction to establish a board of health under Minn. Stat. § 145A.03 and delegate to the board of health by agreement any powers or duties. This is referred to as a "delegation agreement" (not to be confused with an environmental health delegation agreement). It is an agreement to delegate powers and duties of a board of health and must be approved by the commissioner of health. The terms, or content, of such an agreement are outlined in Minn. Stat. § 145A.07, subd 3. Examples include, criteria to determine if performance meets standards; agreement not to perform licensing and inspection outside of their jurisdiction; a set duration for the agreement and terms for the termination of the agreement.
In layperson's terms, a delegation agreement is one way the multi-county CHBs assure that the work of public health gets done at the local (county) level since few CHBs employee any program staff. Joint powers agreements, as de-scribed above, are another way to assure the work of public health at the local level.
Delegation agreements and joint powers agreements are similar that in that both are designed for the County's or CHB's protection. They both delegate powers, but not responsibilities from the CHBs. This means that ultimately MDH still holds the CHB responsible. So, it is important that parties to a delegation agreement or joint powers agreement are comfortable with and understand what is being delegated within their local agreements.