November 23, 2011 Leave a comment
Even though I no longer work as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands or a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, municipal law continues to fascinate me, and I still help governments, business entities, organizations, and private citizens with their municipal legal issues. Even if I did not, the process of municipal government and the interplay between law and politics is fascinating.
The City of Bell scandal has had a large impact on cities, from cities jettisoning the City of Bell’s auditors, to citizens taking another look at how government works. AB1344 is an attempt to fight the last war, and try to close perceived loopholes that allowed the situation in Bell to occur. Here is the Legislative Counsel’s Digest for this bill, which was signed by Governor Brown and chaptered on October 9, 2011, and will be operative on January 1, 2012:
AB 1344, Feuer. Local governance.
(1) Existing law requires a charter commission to submit, among other things, a city charter to the voters of a city at either a special election called for that purpose, at any established municipal election date, or at any established election date, provided that there are at least 88 days before the election. Existing law also authorizes the governing body of any city or city and county to, among other things, propose a charter and submit the proposal for the adoption to the voters at either a special election called for that purpose or at any established municipal election date or at any established election date, provided there are at least 88 days before the election.
This bill would require a city charter or charter amendment, whether submitted to the voters by a charter commission or the governing body of the city or city and county, to be submitted at the next established statewide general, statewide primary, or regularly scheduled municipal election date, provided there are at least 95 days before the election. This bill would also require a proposal to adopt a charter, whether submitted to the voters by a charter commission or the legislative body of a city or city and county to include in the ballot description an enumeration of new city powers as a result of the adoption of the charter, including, but not limited to, whether the city council will, pursuant to an adopted charter, have the power to raise its own compensation and the compensation of other city officials without voter approval.
(2) The Meyers-Milias-Brown Act contains various provisions that govern collective bargaining of local represented employees. The Ralph M. Brown Act requires that all meetings of a legislative body of a local agency be open and public and all persons be permitted to attend unless a closed session is authorized. Existing law requires all contracts of employment between an employee and a local agency employer to include a provision which provides that regardless of the term of the contract, if the contract is terminated, the maximum cash settlement that an employee may receive shall be an amount equal to the monthly salary of the employee multiplied by the number of months left on the unexpired term of the contract, with a maximum of 18 months. This bill would, on and after January 1, 2012, additionally prohibit an employment contract for a local agency executive, as defined, from providing an automatic renewal of a contract that provides for an automatic compensation increase in excess of a cost-of-living adjustment or a maximum cash settlement in excess of certain limits, as specified. By expanding the duties of local officials, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
(3) Existing law sets forth the penalties for misuse of public resources or falsifying expense reporting, including, but not limited to, loss of reimbursement privileges, restitution to the local agency, civil penalties for misuse of public resources, and prosecution for misuse of public resources, including imprisonment for 2, 3, or 4 years, and disqualification from holding office, as specified. This bill would, on and after January 1, 2012, require a contract executed or renewed between a local agency and an officer or employee of the local agency to include a provision that requires an officer or employee of a local agency who is convicted of a crime involving an abuse of his or her office or position, as defined, to fully reimburse the local agency for specified payments made by that local agency to the officer or employee. The bill would also require an officer or employee of the local agency, who is convicted of a crime involving an abuse of his or her office, to fully reimburse any such payments that are made by the local agency in the absence of a contractual obligation between the agency and the officer or employee.
(4) The Ralph M. Brown Act enables the legislative body of a local agency to call both regular and special meetings. The act requires the legislative body of a local agency to post an agenda containing a brief general description of each item of business to be transacted or discussed at a regular meeting, in a location that is freely accessible to members of the public. The act also requires the presiding officer of the legislative body to deliver written notice to each member of the legislative body, and to each local newspaper of general circulation and radio or television station requesting notice in writing if the presiding officer of the legislative body calls a special meeting. This bill would require the legislative body, or the presiding officer of the legislative body, to provide notice of each meeting, including special meetings, on the local agency’s Internet Web site, if the local agency has one, as specified. In addition, this bill would prohibit any legislative body from holding a special meeting regarding the salary, salary schedule, or other form of compensation for any local agency executive.
(5) The bill would express a legislative finding and declaration that, to ensure the statewide integrity of local government, the provisions of the act are an issue of statewide concern and that, therefore, all counties and cities, including charter counties, charter cities, and charter cities and counties, would be subject to the provisions of the bill.
(6) The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement. This bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to these statutory provisions.
Specifically, this bill amends Elections Code sections 9255 and 9260; adds Chapter 10.1, commencing with section 3511.1 to Division 4 of Title 1 of the Government Code; amends Government Code sections 34457 and 34458; adds Government Code section 34458.5, Adds Article 2, commencing with section 53243 to Chapter 2 of Part 1 of Division 2 of Title 5 of the Government Code, amends Government Code sections 54954.2 and 54956.
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