William Guthrie, San Bernardino City Attorney

William R. Guthrie was the San Bernardino City Attorney from 1913 to 1927, and 1931 until 1935.  He was also the founder of what today is Gresham Savage (from their website http://www.greshamsavage.com/firm-100years.html):

The Gresham Savage story begins in 1910, when founder William Guthrie opened his solo practice in San Bernardino, Calif. Like the rest of the country, the city was in transition, shedding its image as a rough-and-ready saloon town where shootouts and public hangings were commonplace. During the first 20 years of the new century, as Santa Fe locomotives brought thousands of new settlers down the Cajon Pass, the city tripled in size and grew in respectability and importance.

Guthrie served as city attorney for 12 years, gaining valuable experience in industry, mining, tax valuation and assessments. He became an influential figure in business, political and social circles and was an imposing local presence, strolling the streets of San Bernardino in his distinctive white hat.

His reputation for getting results grew rapidly, catching the attention of large corporations, including the Southern Pacific Railroad, California Portland Cement Company, still a Gresham Savage client, and American Potash & Chemical Co., now Searles Valley Minerals, also still with the firm. Later in Guthrie’s career, Henry Kaiser hired him to handle the legal affairs of Kaiser’s new Fontana Steel Mill.

. . .

By the economic crash of 1929, Guthrie had moved into San Bernardino’s new Andreson Building, which still stands today. Throughout the Depression, he continued serving major corporations, including the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, now the BNSF Railway Company and the longest-standing current Gresham Savage client, Southern California Edison and the predecessor to General Telephone, which is now Verizon.

As the country struggled through those difficult years, Guthrie expanded his practice, bringing on Carl B. Hilliard, Donald W. Jordan, John B. Lonergan and Jesse W. Curtis Jr. In 1937, he formed a partnership with Curtis, whose father had been a pioneer San Bernardino County lawyer, Superior Court judge and Supreme Court justice.

. . .

Now as Guthrie & Curtis, the firm prospered during World War II, serving heavy industry companies such as Kaiser Steel and California Portland Cement Company, whose successors remain clients of the firm. These were precedent-setting times, requiring attorneys of strong character and high intellect to properly interpret complex laws dealing with local and regional government regulations. Guthrie would often convene the area’s captains of industry at a local restaurant or meeting place to discuss the important legal and political issues of the day.

. . .

After Curtis left the firm in 1947, Guthrie, Lonergan and Jordan established a legendary partnership that was to be unmatched at handling legal matters involving labor, public land and mining. “New Law Firm Formed in City,” trumpeted the headline in the local newspaper, describing Guthrie as “long one of the outstanding figures” of the county’s bar.

Sadly, failing health forced Guthrie to retire soon after, but not a single client left the firm as Lonergan and Jordan took up the challenge of moving on without the legendary founding attorney. Though practicing in a small-town geographically, they were widely regarded as big-city professionals, expanding the practice even further and attracting multinational corporations as clients.

William Guthrie was born in San Bernardino on November 1, 1886 to William James Guthrie and Anna B. Lawson (Guthrie).  In 1900, he lived with his parents at 472 West Fourth Street in the Second Ward.  His father was listed as a Dry Goods Merchant on the 1900 Census.

By the next Census, he was the head of household as his mother was listed as widowed.  They were living at 626 North E Street in the Second Ward.  William Guthrie was listed as a Deputy County Clerk and as a lawyer. The State Bar of California gives his State Bar number of 3059, and says he was admitted in January 1910. The Census was taken on April 16-18, 2010, so he had just passed the Bar.  His brother, James Guthrie, was already listed as a newspaper reporter (he was later the publisher of the Sun).

In 1910, William Guthrie lived not far from Charles L. Allison (491 West Fourth Street).  Charles Allison was elected City Attorney in 1911, and was defeated by William Guthrie in 1913.  In the 1910-1911 San Bernardino City Directory, Gutherie’s address is listed as 527 E Street, and he is listed as Chief Deputy County Clerk. By the 1911-1912 listing, he is living at 626 North E Street with his brothers, and is listed as a lawyer with Willis & Guthrie.

According to the Minutes of the Mayor and Common Council dated March 20, 1913, he received the following votes in the Primary Municipal Election: In the Republican Primary, 389 votes; in the Democratic Primary, 97 votes; in the Socialist Primary, 10 votes; and the Prohibition Primary, 6 votes.

In the minutes of the Mayor and Common Council Meeting of April 16, 1913, William Guthrie received the following votes in the April 14, 1913 General Municipal Election, 1432 votes over the Socialist candidate J.W. Stephenson’s 823 votes and H.H. Chase received 918 votes.

By the time of the 1913-1914 City Directory, William Guthrie is listed as Attorney and City Attorney, Room 413 of the Katz Building, telephone HOme [sic] 1141, and still living at 646 D Street.  By the 1916 City Directory, he had moved his residence to 939 D Street.

He ran for re-election on April 12, 1915, and gained 2704 votes to his opponent, Cecil H. Phillips’ 1987 votes.

On June 5, 1917, on his draft card, William Guthrie listed his residence as 939 (North) D street, and his occupation as City Attorney, and employed by the City of San Bernardino. He claimed exemptions for supporting his wife and as a City officer.

William Guthrie again ran in the 1919 primary and general elections.  In the primary municipal election, he ran against Fred A. Wilson for the first time.  Guthrie received 2144 votes, Fred A. Wilson received 1170 votes, and Frank T. Bates received  631 votes.

In 1920, he lived at 1151 North D Street with his wife Mary, and he is listed as a general practice attorney.  The City Attorney position at that time was part-time.  It did not become full time until a Charter section 55 was amended in a special election on January 6, 1955.

William Guthrie ran unopposed in the 1923 election.

By 1924, the San Bernardino Directory lists him as City Attorney, with his office at 205-210 Katz Building, and his residence as 1151 North D Street.

In the March 1927 primary election, Guthrie defeated Fred A. Wilson.  Fred A. Wilson was a San Bernardino attorney, State Bar Number 7329 admitted in September 1911.  However, in the 1927 general primary election, Fred A. Wilson won.

By 1928, his office was at 506 Andreson Building, 320 North E, and his home was still at 1151 North D Street.

In 1930, he still lived at 1151 N. D Street with his wife Mary and daughter Elizabeth.  Their home was listed as valued at $12,000.  His occupation is lawyer (owns office).

William Guthrie ran for City attorney again in 1931, beating City Attorney Fred A. Wilson in the General Election by a vote of 4,180 to 3,543.

In the April 8, 1935 General Municipal Election, H.R. Griffin defeated William Guthrie in a close race. H.R. Griffin, received 4,508 votes, and Guthrie received 4,040 votes.  Theo G. Krumm received 889 votes.

By 1940, he was living at 356 West 18th Street.  He was listed as a lawyer in his own private practice.  He lived with his wife Mary, his daughter Elizabeth, and a young man named Felix Flint, who was their “hired yard man.”

William Guthrie died on November 2, 1947 at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Los Angeles, California.

His obituary in the Los Angeles Times of November 4, 1947 read:

William Guthrie, San Bernardino Attorney, Dies

William Guthrie, 61, San Bernardino attorney, died at St. Vincent’s Hospital Sunday night of a lung infection.  In failing health since September, he was brought here from his home last Tuesday to undergo treatment by specialists.

A native of San Bernardino, Mr. Guthrie was admitted to the California Bar 35 years ago. He prepared himself for his bar examination by studying law in his after-office hours while he was employed as a deputy county clerk.  He served as City Attorney of San Bernardino for 12 years.

Mr. Guthrie was known as an authority on corporation law. His clients included many of the industrial corporations of the State. He practiced frequently in Los Angeles courts, and was a member of the California, University and Jonathan clubs here.

He leaves his widow, Mrs. Mary D. Guthrie, a daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Goss, Claremont, and two brothers, James A. Guthrie, publisher and editor of the San Bernardino Sun, and Howard M. Guthrie, San Bernardino businessman.

Friday Aside: A Return to the Cesspool as the San Bernardino Sun Adopts Disqus Comment System

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

I recently saw this on a news-aggregating website that involves people who comment on news, and other items, using anonymous handles:

Google and Amazon wanting to make me use my real name for everything means I never post reviews of anything anywhere.  Same with newspaper sites requiring you to log in to Facebook and post comments under your real name.

If you take away the anonymity of the Internet you take a way a lot of what makes the Internet great.  I can’t believe that anyone actually posts anything anywhere that doesn’t allow you to use a username.

I don’t understand that mentality, at least for commenting on a website that has journalistic standards for publishing.
When the Sun (and the Redlands Daily Facts) and the Press-Enterprise moved to a Facebook commenting system (that also allowed Yahoo accounts), the quality of the comments increased.  There were still fake accounts, and Yahoo accounts did not require a real name.  I commented at the time the Sun moved to Facebook (but the PE had not):

I don’t often give the Sun enough credit for anything, whether it is in cutting costs by having their reporters double as photographers or by combining multiple beats into one large beat.  However, they deserve credit in that their comments have improved by taking away the anonymity that existed in the old system and replacing it with (for the most part) Facebook (which still has some fake profiles and alts), although Yahoo appears to allow anonymity.  There is less overt bigotry in the comment sections, which is a vast improvement.  . . .

The PE, on the other hand, still allows anonymous trolls, and their discourse is much lower.  Of course, some of the partisans battling on the Sun don’t let the lack of anonymity get in the way of their views. As discourse has been lessened amongst public officials, so too has the discourse of their hyperpartisan followers.  So, say what you want about the Sun’s level of journalism; at least they have cut down on anonymous trolls.  The PE would be well served, just this one time, in copying LANG on this issue.

However, with the redesign, the LANG newspapers they adopted Disqus, which allows usernames that do not reflect new names.  Though most of the frequent commenters are still using their Facebook accounts, there is the potential for abuse.  Cnn.com uses Disqus and other than partisan political sites, it has the lowest-common denominator comments extant on the Internet.
I do not understand how the Sun will not publish a letter to the editor without a real name, but allows anonymous commenting. The Sun should change back to a Facebook-only system.


A List of Every Address in San Bernardino, California

By Michael Reiter

I stumbled upon this file when I was writing yesterday’s post about car dealer taxation.  It is purportedly a list of every address in the City of San Bernardino, California.  The link was on the California State Board of Equalization page, but it physically resides on the City of San Bernardino servers.  I tried finding it by searching the City of San Bernardino website, but I was unable to locate the file.

If you’re looking to find every address in the City of San Bernardino, I am not sure if this list is 100 percent accurate, but I also know of no other file that presents the information in this way.

The Myth about Car Dealer Sales Tax in California.

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

You often hear people talking about how car dealers bring sales tax revenue to cities from the sale of vehicles.  While there is some truth to it, there are special rules for the allocation of a portion of the tax that discourages shoppers from choosing an out-of-town retailer with a lower sales tax rate.

Further, Government Code section 53084 has discouraged local entities from providing financial assistance, including sales tax rebates to car dealers and big box retailers that are in another jurisdiction: “. . . a local agency shall not provide any form of financial assistance to a vehicle dealer or big box retailer, or a business entity that sells or leases land to a vehicle dealer or big box retailer, that is relocating from the territorial jurisdiction of one local agency to the territorial jurisdiction of another local agency but within the same market area.”

Further, people think that all the sales tax revenue goes to a local agency, when just a portion of the sales tax goes to a local entity.  Of the 7.5 percent base rate in California, the Board of Equalization states:

“Local Tax” is the general term for sales and use taxes imposed under the Bradley-Burns Uniform Sales and Use Tax Law. The basic statewide sales and use tax rate is 7.50% and is divided as follows:

  • 6.50% State

  • 0.75% Local Jurisdiction (City or county of place of sale or use)

  • 0.25% Local Transportation Fund (County of place of sale or use) [Emphasis added]

In addition to the “Local Tax,” many California local entities have special taxing districts which impose a sales and use tax by adding to the current 7.5 percent.  In the California Board of Equalization Publication 34, dated January 2013, entitled Motor Vehicle Dealers, Pages 28-29:

If you sell or lease a vehicle to a customer who registers the vehicle in a special tax district, you are considered “engaged in business” in the district. As a result, you must report and pay the applicable special district tax.
You are located in Alameda County, where there are three districts, each funded by a 0.50 percent rate. You sell or lease a vehicle to a customer who will register the vehicle in the same county. You report and pay the standard statewide rate of 7.50 percent plus 1.50 percent for the three special tax districts in effect in the county, for a total rate of 9.00 percent.
You are located in Los Angeles County and sell a vehicle that will be registered in Kings County, where there are no special tax districts. You report and pay only the statewide rate of 7.50 percent.
You are located in Kern County and sell a vehicle that will be registered in Alameda County, where there are three special tax districts. As with the first example, you will report and pay tax at the total rate of 9.00 percent (the standard statewide rate of 7.50 percent plus 1.50 percent for the three districts).

Leases are a little different.  Revenue and Taxation Code section 7205.1 says that a California lessor, other than a new motor vehicle dealer or a leasing company, for a lease exceeding four months, the local tax is allocated from the California dealer’s sales location.

Certainly, even without certain sales tax revenue on sales, vehicle dealers are attractive to local California entities because they provide jobs, services for residents, and both local and special district taxes on parts, for example.  However, since motor vehicles are big ticket items, people mistakenly think that the special district taxes are based on the location of the dealer, when in California it is based on registration.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

When Does the Brown Act Allow A Council or Board To Meet Outside the Jurisdiction?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The Ralph M. Brown Act codified at Government Code section 54950 et seq., California’s open meeting law gives the public the opportunity to know what their elected officials are doing, and requires their meetings to be open and public.

When does the Brown Act allow a Council or Board to meet outside their jurisdiction?

Generally, the Brown Act does not allow legislative bodies to meet outside their jurisdiction “Regular and special meetings of the legislative body shall be held within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction . . .”  Government Code section 54954(b).

However, there are the exceptions listed in the same section:

(1) Comply with state or federal law or court order, or attend a judicial or administrative proceeding to which the local agency is a party.

(2) Inspect real or personal property which cannot be conveniently brought within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction provided that the topic of the meeting is limited to items directly related to the real or personal property.
(3) Participate in meetings or discussions of multiagency significance that are outside the boundaries of a local agency’s jurisdiction. However, any meeting or discussion held pursuant to this subdivision shall take place within the jurisdiction of one of the participating local agencies and be noticed by all participating agencies as provided for in this chapter.
(4) Meet in the closest meeting facility if the local agency has no meeting facility within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction, or at the principal office of the local agency if that office is located outside the territory over which the agency exercises jurisdiction.
(5) Meet outside their immediate jurisdiction with elected or appointed officials of the United States or the State of California when a local meeting would be impractical, solely to discuss a legislative or regulatory issue affecting the local agency and over which the federal or state officials have jurisdiction.
(6) Meet outside their immediate jurisdiction if the meeting takes place in or nearby a facility owned by the agency, provided that the topic of the meeting is limited to items directly related to the facility.
(7) Visit the office of the local agency’s legal counsel for a closed session on pending litigation held pursuant to Section 54956.9, when to do so would reduce legal fees or costs.
There are also special rules for school boards:

(c) Meetings of the governing board of a school district shall be held within the district, except under the circumstances enumerated in subdivision (b), or to do any of the following:

(1) Attend a conference on nonadversarial collective bargaining techniques.
(2) Interview members of the public residing in another district with reference to the trustees’ potential employment of an applicant for the position of the superintendent of the district.
(3) Interview a potential employee from another district.  Government Code section 54954(c).
Also, Joint Powers Authority have special rules.
(d) Meetings of a joint powers authority shall occur within the territory of at least one of its member agencies, or as provided in subdivision (b). However, a joint powers authority which has members throughout the state may meet at any facility in the state which complies with the requirements of Section 54961. Government Code section 54954(d).
Practically, it can be very difficult for a legislative body to meet outside its jurisdiction. For one, politically, it looks like the agency is hiding something.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104,
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

Random Text on the Internet

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Sometimes when you are doing research online, you come across sheer nonsense that almost makes sense.

[Company Name] respects strict compliance with treaty obligations as a law. When the management speaks about order fulfillment, there is no room for excuses. This concerns both the intellectual and practical contributions of workers. Having high demands the company tries to match them in working conditions. That’s why it provides modern equipment for office and guarantee social protection for the employees.

I was searching for information on a candidate running for local office, and this semi-gibberish appeared.  I found it amusing and I wanted to share it with my readers.

I cannot tell if it is computer-generated, or created by a non-native speaker of English. I assume that it is designed to fool Google into thinking it is unique content.  I thought Google’s more recent changes had banished such content to the land of wind and ghosts, but perhaps not.

I think this content was highly rated on Google because there was limited information on the candidate.  The information was not actually created by the candidate, it was created on what used to be called a link farm, and I have no idea what it is called after Google’s last round of updates.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104,
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

Abusive Code Enforcement

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I have begun to notice a pattern in complaints about code enforcement agencies lately.

One is that certain cities (especially large charter cities) regarding what they want out of code enforcement. They used to want to use code enforcement tools to eliminate blight and come into compliance.  Now, it seems that many cities want to generate revenue from code enforcement instead of compliance.

The second pattern is that code enforcement is abusing their discretion.  In order to make money, little infractions become major code enforcement violations.  Dormant trees in the winter become unmaintained landscaping. A burnt patch of summer grass becomes lack of landscaping.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104,
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055



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