California Municipal Law Blog

Municipal Law Blog

Legal updates on current legislation and court cases affecting California local government

Court Upholds Election Official’s Refusal to Qualify Initiative Based on “Full Text” Rule

Posted in Elections, Recent Court Decisions

In Napa County, a group of voters proposed an initiative that would enact a number of measures to protect the quality of watersheds and oak resources.  In Wilson v. County of Napa, an appellate court recently found their initiative proposal defective because it did not comply with an important procedural requirement known as the “full text” rule.

Wilson is a good reminder to initiative proponents that the rules for qualifying initiatives can be unforgiving.  Proponents must take great care to make sure they satisfy all the procedural requirements before submitting their proposed measures. Continue Reading

Urgent: State Supreme Court Holds Emails or Text Messages Sent on Personal Accounts are Disclosable Public Records

Posted in Public Records Act, Recent Court Decisions

The California Supreme Court has issued its long-awaited decision on whether public employee emails or text messages, sent and stored on the employees’ personal accounts, are public records.  A unanimous Court held that such emails and text messages are disclosable records under the California Public Records Act.  (City of San Jose v. Superior Court, decided March 2, 2017) Continue Reading

Urgent: Trump Administration Statements about Recreational Marijuana May Affect Local Ordinances and Enforcement

Posted in Proposition 64

The Trump Administration has indicated it intends to crack down on states that allow recreational marijuana.  As reported in the Sacramento Bee on February 23, 2017, Trump Administration Press Secretary Sean Spicer has threatened “greater enforcement” of federal law on this subject.  It’s not yet clear what, when, or how such enforcement will occur.  Spicer noted only those matters are things “the Department of Justice will be further looking into.”

For California cities and counties, this announcement comes at a pivotal time.  With the passage of Proposition 64 in November 2016, marijuana may now lawfully be used, within certain limits, for recreational use.  Many cities and counties have been considering, or plan to consider, new or amended ordinances in light of this fundamental change in law. Continue Reading

Daily Journal Publishes Our Article on Whether Public Agency Legal Bills are Privileged

Posted in Public Records Act, Recent Court Decisions

On January 27, 2017, the Daily Journal published our article on the California Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding public agency legal bills, and whether they are privileged.  The full article can be accessed at this link: Daily Journal Article January 27

Governor Signs New Law Affecting School District “Lease-Leaseback” Programs

Posted in Legislative Updates, Schools

On September 23, 2016 Governor Brown signed AB2316 which makes significant changes to the Lease-Leaseback construction program that school districts  have been successfully using for years. The bill arises primarily out of recent litigation in Fresno stemming from allegations of corruption and partiality. These new changes, set to take effect on January 1, 2017, among other revisions, specifically delete the phrase “without advertising for bid” from Education Code §17406 and add a new competitive bidding process to the lease-leaseback procedure. Additionally, it includes a specific provision authorizing contractors used in pre-construction consulting to remain eligible for the award of the project. Continue Reading

What Will Marijuana Legalization Mean for Local Government?

Posted in Elections, Initiatives, Medical Marijuana, Proposition 215

On September 26, 2016, the Daily Journal published our article, “What pot legalization would mean for local governments.”  The article discusses the issues local government will address if Proposition 64 passes this November (which is expected).  This article can be accessed at the following link:  What Will Pot Legalization Mean

Court Holds that Obstruction of Views Does Not Inversely Condemn Private Property

Posted in Inverse Condemnation, Recent Court Decisions

In what can only be described as a classic example of a “First World problem,” a Beverly Hills couple sued their city for ruining their beautiful views.  From their hilltop estate, the coupled had for years enjoyed unobstructed views of Beverly Hills, the Hollywood Hills, and other iconic Southern California landmarks.  But when Sequoia redwood trees the city had planted many years earlier began taking on their customary sizes, the tree canopy started blocking the couple’s view.  Because of the diminished view—which was getting worse as the trees grew—the couple sued the city for inverse condemnation.

In April, the Los Angeles-based Second District Court of Appeal rejected the plaintiffs’ claim.  In Boxer v. City of Beverly Hills, the court held that diminution of property owner views, standing alone, does not unconstitutionally take private property and require compensation. Continue Reading

Attorney General Addresses Conflict of Interest Question Affecting Joint Powers Authorities

Posted in Ethics

The California Attorney General issued an opinion related to the rights of Joint Powers Authority (JPA) voting members which likely affects all JPAs throughout California.  The question arose where a member of the board of directors was required to recuse himself from voting on an issue because of a conflict of interest.

The subject of this particular opinion was the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), which is comprised of 26 individual agencies or municipalities. Some of these member agencies are allotted more than one seat on the board of directors. Those agencies, for example the City of Los Angeles, have their total number of votes proportionally allocated among their members who sit as members of the MWD board of directors for voting purposes. If a director of one of these multi-director agencies is absent from a board meeting, that director’s share of the votes are reallocated among the other directors of the constituent agency on a one time basis. Continue Reading

Governor Signs Law to Require Agency Reports Before Approving Changes to Executive Compensation or Benefits

Posted in Legislative Updates, Meetings, Uncategorized

On August 23, 2016, Governor Brown signed SB 1436 (Bates), which mandates that local agencies report out certain information before changing the compensation or benefits of their “executives.”  Under this new law, legislative bodies (e.g., city councils, boards of supervisors, or boards of directors) for agencies must “orally report a summary of a recommendation” for changes in salaries or benefits before voting for the changes.  The votes must then take place in the open session portions of their meetings.

SB 1436 is part of an evolving trend toward requiring greater transparency concerning the compensation of high-ranking local officials following the City of Bell scandal.   Among the open-government measures that have been implemented previously, local agencies must now report their employee salaries to the State Controller and must abide by a number of limitations before changing the compensation and benefits of their high-ranking officers.

The following questions and answers are intended to provide a convenient reference for understanding and applying the new law. Continue Reading

Court Holds Six-Minute Discussion on Non-Agendized Matter Doesn’t Violate Brown Act

Posted in Meetings, Recent Court Decisions

When a person raises an issue not on a meeting agenda, how much can council or board members discuss the issue without running afoul of the Brown Act?  A recent court case provides some helpful guidance.

In Cruz v. Culver City, a California appellate court held that a six-minute discussion about how to place an item on a future agenda did not violate the Brown Act.  Fortunately for local agencies, the court rejected a challenge to the discussion that had relied on a hyper-technical reading of the Act’s language. Continue Reading