Public Official bonds protect the government and its citizens from the improper actions of a public official. The Federal government, as well as many local and state governments, may require these bonds from their public servants, officials, sheriffs, deputies, and other employees.
Bond forms vary depending on the position, but most government authorities draft their own bond forms to meet the requirements spelled out by the law, ordinance, statute, order, tradition, or office requiring the bond. In most cases, the bond form will explicitly refer to the law itself. In general, the bonds cover any improper actions of a bonded official including mishandling funds, unauthorized compensations, and dishonest acts. Bonds for public officials handling money have more liability and risks than bonds for public officials who do not handle money.
The bonds guarantee the public official’s utmost good faith, or “faithful performance.” This standard acts as a benchmark for the public official’s behavior. Because governments have many different types of public officials, underwriters must use due diligence to study and understand the official’s job, position, and authority.
Sureties can issue these bonds individually or as “blankets.” An individual bond covers only one person and one position. A blanket bond may cover multiple persons and/or positions at once. Underwriters treat each position/person as a separate entity when they issue blanket bonds, and the Surety may extinguish the liability of a position/person under a blanket bond without extinguishing the entire blanket bond. However, governments have different requirements for public official bonds and some do not allow blanket bonds.
Public officials who request a new bond in the middle of their term often raise red flags. Most public officials post their bonds at the beginning of their term, so when a request for a bond comes in the middle of the official’s term it usually means the official has already exhausted the liability of their first bond. Sureties and underwriters must investigate the reasons why the official makes the request and ensure a previous surety has not paid a claim on an official’s previous bond already.