Codification of the San Bernardino Municipal Code: A 2012 Update

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

In 2011, I wrote two pieces on codification of the San Bernardino Municipal Code, and an update on the situation.

From the second piece:

To recap, The Mayor and Common Council, at their November 7, 2011 meeting, passed Resolution 2011-299 Authorizing the issuance of a Request for Proposals for Municipal Code Codification Services.  The staff report to the Resolution painted this unflattering picture of how behind the City is in codification:

Table 1.1 Code Supplement Distribution History from 2008 through 2011

Time Period Distribution Date Note
1/2008 to 3/31/2008 4/2008 on schedule
4/2008 to 6/30/2008 7/2008 on schedule
7/2008 to 9/30/2008 11/2008 1 month behind schedule
10/2008 to 12/31/2008 9/2009 8 months behind schedule
1/2009 to 3/31/2009 9/2009 5 months behind schedule
4/2009 to 6/30/2009 9/2009 2 months behind schedule
7/2009 to 9/30/2009 10/2009 on schedule
10/2009 to 12/31/2009 1/2010 on schedule
1/2010 to 3/31/2010 3/23/2010 1 week ahead of schedule
4/2010 to 6/30/2010 2/2011 7 months behind schedule
7/2010 to 9/30/2010 2/2011 4 months behind schedule
10/2010 to 12/31/2010 Not yet distributed 9 months behind schedule
1/2011 to 3/31/2011 Not yet distributed 6 months behind schedule
4/2011 to 6/30/2011 Not yet distributed 3 months behind schedule
7/2011 to 9/30/2011 Not yet distributed Due this month

What that means is that it is difficult for the lay observer and the outside professional to find out the state of the law.

The Mayor and Common Council will consider, at the February 7, 2012 meeting, awarding  the Code Publishing, Inc. of Seattle, Washington.  However, in the staff report and the resolution, you can see tension between the City Attorney’s Office and the City Manager’s Office:

Proposals were then evaluated by a selection committee comprised of City staff representing the City Clerk’s and City Manager’s offices, Public Works, Information Technology, and Community Development departments. The City Attorney’s Office was invited to participate and identified a representative from their office to take part in this process. The representative was present during one of the presentations; however, the City Attorney’s Office was unable to attend the other presentations and did not participate in the evaluation process.  [Emphasis added]

The selection committee recommends that Code Publishing, Inc., be awarded the contract. While all of the codification companies are qualified to provide the needed services, Code Publishing, Inc., received the highest ranking scores based on their flexible pricing, customer service-oriented approach, quality of electronic publishing and internet services, and legal publishing expertise.

. . .

Recodification and the regular distribution of supplement materials is a necessary undertaking to maintain transparency of the City’s Code. It is the City’s responsibility to maintain its laws in a current and comprehensive format. When the Code contains conflicts or discrepancies and outdated or incorrect references it cannot be an effective tool for residents and enforcement officials to follow and enforce the laws with consistency and accuracy. Moreover, the public, including property and business owners and developers, are poorly served by not having access to updated codes in order to assess information necessary when, for example, applying for business registrations, building permits, or planning new development options.

Outsourcing codification services is a standard practiced by most California cities. A recent survey conducted by staff shows that 91 percent of California cities outsource codification services. Of the 362 cities governed by general law, 332 or 92 percent of cities outsource codification services. Of the 120 charter cities in California, 105 or 88 percent of cities outsource codification services. Within the group of charter cities, 9 or 82 percent of the 11 charter cities that elect a city attorney outsource codification services. [Emphasis added]

By outsourcing services, the City will be able to promptly provide subscribers with quarterly supplements while reducing the time the City Attorney’s and Clerk’s offices and the Planning Division devote to codifying, indexing, proofreading, publishing, and distributing activities. While the City Attorney’s Office is responsible for drafting proposed ordinances and resolutions, the Planning Division is responsible for updating changes to the Development Code (Title 19). Title 19 is one of the most dynamic sections of the Code with the largest number of annual amendments (20 amendments in three years).

The mostly unexecuted version of the resolution says “decline to sign” and the initials “JFP.” City Attorney James F. Penman has declined to approve the resolution as to form.  From time to time, the City Attorney does not sign resolutions or agreements.  The reasons he declined to do might be found by examining the minutes and video of the November 7, 2011 Council Meeting.

Video on the discussion surrounding the item is available on the City’s website, and the item is about at the 3:37:00 mark. For context, the meeting was the day before the Primary Municipal Election. City Attorney Penman said that the first he heard about it was when it appeared on the agenda.  He said the situation was low priority and created by Council not fully funding the City Attorney’s Office, because the Legal Secretary II responsible has been taken off codification and placed on litigation.  He took issue with the cost of $40,000, and said it could be done for $10,000 using a part-time legal secretary without benefits.

Council member McCammack said that City Manager McNeely’s staff had politicized the issue.  She also said that it was more important to pay the $40,000 in defending the liability cases.

Council member Marquez asked about other cities contract with vendors, and City Clerk Rachel Clark said that the Clerk’s Office did a survey but that she didn’t have the numbers with her at the Council Meeting.

Council Member Jenkins said that the money could be better used on potholes, trimming trees or broken street lights.

Council member Kelley had concerns that sending out the RFP would start an unavoidable path to paying for outside codification.

City Attorney Penman said that the biggest request was to annotate the code and Charter with case law, and the codification company would charge extra. City Attorney Penman said that they were ahead of schedule a year before, but that staff had been taken off of it, and that it was not high priority.

Mayor Morris said that the City Attorney’s Office would be part of the RFP process.

Council member McCammack asked which staff would be involved with the codifier to make sure the codifier was making accurate changes to the code.  City Manager McNeely said that the City Attorney and City Manager and City Clerk’s Office would be involved, and that mostly the City Clerk’s Office would be involved.

City Clerk Clark highlighted the times that the City Attorney’s Office was late in the quarterly updates, but when confronted said that it had been on time before the highlighted period.  She also said that it was during Tom Minor’s administration that it came in-house.  Council member McCammack said the item was a political ploy to embarrass the City Attorney’s Office.
The first public speaker said that it was difficult to find the code online, particularly related to code enforcement.  The second speaker was then-City Clerk candidate Esther Jimenez discussed an issue regarding a proposed tobacco ordinance in the past which wasn’t really related to the discussion (and City Attorney Penman disputed her view of the events).
City Attorney Penman disputed the part of the RFP that there was a need to make corrective measures to the existing code, and he said that Council had blocked some moves already proposed by the City Attorney’s Office, and that his Office didn’t have the resources to make the needed changes.  City Attorney Penman said that all hands were defending lawsuits so that no one could participate in the selection process.

The Common Council voted on strictly partisan lines.  According to the minutes of November 7, 2011, Resolution 2011-299 was passed on a 4 to 3 vote with Council members Virginia Marquez (1st Ward), Tobin Brinker (2nd Ward), Fred Shorett (4th Ward) and Rikke Van Johnson (6th Ward) in favor; Robert Jenkins (2nd Ward), Chas Kelley (5th Ward) and Wendy McCammack (7th Ward) opposed.
Update:  The Common Council voted 5-2 (Shorett and Johnson opposed) to continue the item to March 19, 2012, where, given the new majority will most likely be defeated, if it even comes to a vote.

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.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

Mailbag: The League of California Cities Ethical Princples for City Attorneys and the San Bernardino City Attorney

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Jeff Thurman of San Bernardino asked me this question on my Facebook page, and I told him on Facebook I would write about here at the blog:

“Would be interested in your take on CA City Attorney Code of Ethics regarding Mr. Penman’s activities in the last election.”

I do not know Jeff Thurman, I only know that he posted this on Gigi Hanna’s campaign website, which I had seen before today:

“Jeff Thurman I campaigned for David McKenna – if you’d like my help, please contact me.”

Here is some Background for people unfamiliar with the context of this election:  San Bernardino, a charter city in Southern California, had a primary election in November 2011.   David McKenna was a candidate for City Attorney in November 2011.  The incumbent, James F. Penman, won reelection.  Gigi Hanna is a candidate for City Clerk in the San Bernardino City General Election in 2012, after having been one of the top two candidates in 2011.  Amelia Sanchez Lopez was the top vote getter in the City Clerk’s race, and in the primary election, she shared elections signs with City Attorney James Penman.  City Attorney Jim Penman was first elected in 1987 and has been elected every four years since; he defeated City Attorney Ralph Prince, who first won election in 1959.  City Attorney Jim Penman’s opponents say that he is a polarizing figure, and have accused him of a variety of ills, including a lack of professionalism, including numerous ethics complaints to the State Bar of California over a number of years.  However, he has no public record of discipline by the State Bar of California

This blog is neutral politically, my only loyalty is to my clients, and I do not currently represent the City of San Bernardino, nor have I since January 2, 2006.

Mr. Thurman is asking about is not the California Rules of Professional Conduct or the California Business and Professions Code’s mandatory ethics rules and duties that each attorney in California must follow.  His reference  of “CA City Attorney Code of Ethics” is to a document properly called “Ethical Principals for City Attorneys” adopted on October 6, 2005 by the League of California Cities City Attorneys Department Business Section, and I believe (since I was at the conference as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands, but I could find no citation) ratified by the City Attorney Section of the League of California Cities by a voice vote in May 2006.

There is some misunderstanding about this document, particularly in San Bernardino, and what it means.  First, the League of California Cities is not a governmental entity.  According to the League itself, the “League of California Cities is an association of California city officials who work together to enhance their knowledge and skills, exchange information, and combine resources so that they may influence policy decisions that affect cities.”

The League does wonderful work, particularly with its conferences.  I have attended a few League functions, and they are very educational.  I have been both to a League of California Cities Spring City Attorney’s Conference and the Annual Conference.  I was also the City of Redlands’ staff member for the League of California Cities, Inland Empire Division, Legislative Task Force for a period of time as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands.  I also contributed to the League’s California Municipal Law Handbook by reviewing a section during my time in Redlands (the book is now published by CEB).

However, its injection into San Bernardino politics, is a red herring, for a few reasons to be discussed later.

Here is the preamble: of the Ethical Principles for City Attorneys:

Preamble

A city attorney occupies an important position of trust and responsibility within city government.  Central to that trust is an expectation and commitment that city attorneys will hold themselves to the highest ethical standards.  Every effort should be made to earn the trust and respect of those advised, as well as the community served.

The City Attorneys Department of the League of California Cities has therefore adopted these ethical principles to:

  •   Serve as an aspirational guide to city attorneys in making decisions in difficult situations,
  •   Provide guidance to clients and the public on the ethical standards to which city attorneys aspire, and
  •  Promote integrity of the city and city attorney office.

City attorneys are also subject to the State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct.  For an explanation of how the rules apply to city attorneys, please see Practicing Ethics published by the League of California Cities in 2004, available at www.cacities.org/attorneys.   These aspirational ethical principles are not an effort to duplicate or interpret the State Bar’s requirements or create additional regulatory standards.

The role of the city attorney and the client city varies.  Some city attorneys are full-time public employees appointed by a city council; some are members of a private law firm, who serve under contract at the pleasure of a city council.  A few are directly elected by the voters; some are governed by a charter.  When reflecting on the following principles, the city attorney should take these variations into account.

The city attorney should be mindful of his or her unique role in public service and take steps to ensure his or her words and deeds will assist in furthering the underlying intent of these principles.

Note the statement that these principles are “aspirational ethical principles.”   Note also that the “role of the city attorney and the client city varies.”  That is certainly the case in the relatively few cities in California which are elected City Attorneys.  There are 11, and the link to the left tells you they are San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Compton, Huntington Beach, Oakland, San Bernardino, Long Beach, San Rafael and Chula Vista.

The preamble continues a “few are directly elected by the voters” which is a grudging nod to the peculiar institution of the elected city attorney in California.

To better understand what Mr. Thurman is talking about, former City Attorney candidate Marianne Milligan alleged, both in 2007 when she was running to be City Attorney and 2011 in an opinion piece in the Sun on August 25, 2011 that City Attorney James F. Penman, provided in part (I don’t have access to the full version, and this is only part of the version that is available elsewhere on the web):

It is important that we, the voters, understand that city attorneys in California are expected to abide by ethical principles adopted by the City Attorneys Department of the League of California Cities.

This universally adopted Code of Ethics states: There should be “no politicization” of the office of city attorney and more specifically states “the city attorney or persons seeking to become city attorney should not make campaign contributions to or participate in campaigns of that city’s officials.”

Marianne Milligan was my immediate supervisor at the time that I transitioned from a Deputy City Attorney in San Bernardino to become the Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands, and before that we were briefly Deputy City Attorneys together in San Bernardino (though she was of higher rank).  In that time, and since, I never had any problems with her either as a boss or as a coworker.  We last spoke when she was leaving Code Enforcement in 2010 and I believe that we are on good terms though we haven’t spoken since 2010.

I think that it is unfair to categorize a document which purports to be “aspirational ethical principles” and designed for the vast majority of city attorneys that are either in-house and appointed or are outside contract attorneys as “universally adopted.”

The “aspirational ethical principles” fail to take into consideration the needs of the eleven elected City Attorneys in California. And the basic fact is that an elected official inherently is involved in politics because they are elected.  It is also incorrect to say that city attorneys in California are expected to abide by the principles; the use of the passive voice is no doubt intentional, even the preamble says that the “aspirational ethical principles are not an effort to duplicate or interpret the State Bar’s requirements or create additional regulatory standards.”

Here is the politicization principle: from the aspirational principles:

Principle 3 (No Politicization).  The city attorney should provide legal advice in a manner that avoids the appearance that the advice is based on political alignment or partisanship, which can undermine client trust.

Explanation.  The city attorney and the city attorney’s advice needs to be trusted as impartial by the entire council, staff and community. 

 

Examples
1.        The city attorney should provide consistent advice with the city’s overall legal interests in mind to all members of the city team regardless of their individual views on the issue.
2.        Each city council member, irrespective of political affiliation, should have equal access to legal advice from the city attorney, while legal work on a matter consuming significant legal resources should require direction from a council majority.
3.        The city attorney or persons seeking to become city attorney should not make campaign contributions to or participate in the campaigns of that city’s officials, including candidates running for that city’s offices or city officers running for other offices.  For private law firms serving as city attorney or seeking to become city attorney, this restriction should apply to the law firm’s attorneys.

4.         When considering whether to become involved in policy advocacy on an issue that may potentially come before the city, the city attorney should evaluate whether such involvement might compromise the attorney’s ability to give unbiased advice or create the appearance of bias.

The example in 3 shows why this does not apply to the City of San Bernardino because the City Attorney has to participate in the campaign of at least one city official, their own.  A better guide of what the City Attorney should and should not do is the Charter of the City of San Bernardino.

The Charter of the City of San Bernardino, as amended in 2004, effective in 2006 reads:

Section 55. Position – Duties – Salary. (a) The office of City Attorney shall

be a full-time position, and the incumbent shall not engage in private practice.

(b) To be eligible to hold the office of City Attorney, the person elected or

appointed shall be an attorney at law, duly licensed as such under the laws of the

State of California, and shall have been engaged in the practice of law for at least

five (5) years prior to his/her election or appointment, and shall have been a

resident and elector of the City for a period of at least thirty (30) consecutive days

next preceding the appointment or the filing of nomination papers for election to the

office.

(c) In the event a vacancy shall occur in the office of City Attorney during

his/her term, such vacancy shall be filled by appointment by the Mayor and

Common Council, which appointment shall be valid until the next general municipal

election, at which time a City Attorney shall be elected for the remainder of any

unexpired term, or for a full term in accordance with Article II of this Charter.

(d) The City Attorney shall be the chief legal officer of the City; he or she

shall represent and advise the Mayor and Common Council and all City officers in

all matters of law pertaining to their offices; he or she shall represent and appear

for the City in all legal actions brought by or against the City, and prosecute

violations of City ordinances, and may prosecute violations of State law which are

misdemeanors or infractions and for which the City Attorney is specifically granted

the power of enforcement by State law without approval of the District Attorney, or

those violations which are drug or vice related; he or she shall also act and appear

as attorney for any City officer or employee who is a party to any legal action in his

or her official capacity; he or she shall attend meetings of the City Council, draft

proposed ordinances and resolutions, give his or her advice or opinion in writing

when requested to do so in writing by the Mayor or Common Council or other City

official upon any matter pertaining to Municipal affairs; and otherwise to do and

perform all services incident to his or her position and required by statute, this

Charter or general law.

(e) The salary of the City Attorney shall be fixed by the Mayor and Common

Council, but shall not be less than seventy-five hundred dollars ($7,500.00) per

annum. He/She shall be provided with office space and equipment, and clerical

help by the City.

That is the language of the Charter of the City of San Bernardino, and that gives the incumbent City Attorney some flexibility in operating.   Former City Attorney Ralph H. Prince had one type of style, which I know only from reading old newspaper articles, hearing from former city officials and his son, and old City Attorney opinions.  Current City Attorney Penman has a different style that he calls elected watch dog”.   That style is a political decision, and if the voters do not like the style of the incumbent, they can vote the incumbent out or recall the incumbent.  They can even try to change section 55, which the City Attorney’s opponents unsuccessfully attempted with Measure C in 2010.

Remember that the aspirational principles have not been adopted by any government agency, including the State Bar of California and the California Legislature, is not a fair question.  It is reminiscent of the song lyric: “we thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong.”  The introduction of these principles were a red herring to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt in the political process  because these voluntary aspirational ethical principles are not “universally adopted” and because they should not apply to a situation like in San Bernardino.  Voters should look to Charter section 55, and to the results of the office in judging the efficacy of an elected city attorney.

The proper method for evaluating the job of an elected city attorney is whether the legal advice given to the City as an entity is sound; whether the elected city attorney has done the things promised in their campaigns, whether the elected city attorney has observed the State Bar’s ethical rules, the dictates of the Business and Professions Code and the case law related to both, whether the elected city attorney is performing the duties given to them by the city’s charter, and whether the city attorney has performed the duties required by state law.

An appointed city attorney is a different creature than an elected city attorney.  An appointed city attorney serves at the whims of elected officials.  In a general law city with a five member council is just two votes from the unemployment line, if a quorum is three.   The appointed city attorney must be political in a different way.  However, it was the appointed city attorneys writing the voluntary aspirational principles, not the elected city attorneys.

Appointed city attorneys often just want to do their job (which is “political” with a small “p”) and avoid Election Politics. They don’t want to be hit up by everyone running for election.  The preamble of the voluntary ethical aspirations states that it exists to “provide guidance to clients and the public on the ethical standards to which city attorneys aspire.”    That means that if Council member A asks the appointed City Attorney to sign her nominating petition or make a donation to the campaign, appointed City Attorney can show her the voluntary aspirational principles and politely say that it is unethical to do so.

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.

Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

A: 300 E. State St. Suite 517
Redlands CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

What is a “dangerous condition of public property?”

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

A public entity may only be held liable for a dangerous condition of its property, not for simple negligence or premises liability.   Before I was in private practice helping plaintiffs, I received a good education in a variety of dangerous condition of public property cases when I was Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino and as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands.

A “dangerous condition” is “a condition of property that creates a substantial (as distinguished from a minor, trivial, or insignificant) risk of injury when such property . . . is used with due care in a manner in which it is foreseeable that it will be used.”  Government Code § 830(a).  A public entity is liable for injury caused by a dangerous condition of property it owns or controls if the plaintiff establishes that (1) the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of injury; (2) that the injury was proximately caused by the dangerous condition; (3) the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury incurred; and either (i) a public employee, within the scope of his or her employment, negligent or wrongly committed an act or omission that created the condition or (ii) the entity had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition in sufficient time before the injury to take protective measures against the dangerous condition. California Government Code §§ 830, 835.

What are the kinds of scenarios that might involve two public entities, or a mix of public entities and private entities?  The scenarios I have seen as an attorney have included:

1. A city, a water district, and a private land owner, where a sidewalk panel was removed to replace a meter box, and the sidewalk panel was never replaced.  The plaintiff tripped and fell.

2. A city, a school district, and an adjoining land owner, and a nonprofit youth organization, where the plaintiff tripped over a utility cover, wherein the surrounding compacted dirt had eroded over the years, but no sidewalk ever existed.

3. A city, a county, and a private land owner, and a private party, where a motorcyclist died at an intersection jointly controlled by the city and county, when the motorcyclist was struck by the private party’s automobile.

4. A trip and fall that happened only in one city, but the plaintiff sued two cities because it was not clear which entity owned or controlled the sidewalk.

5. An injury to a person who was waiting at a bus stop from a city tree in a city park, but at a bus stop owned and controlled by a joint-powers authority transit system.

6. A flooding case wherein the flood control channel was owned by a county flood control agency, but the culvert and bridge were owned by a city.

California Government Code section 830(c) states “‘Property of a public entity’ and “public property” means real or personal property owned or controlled by the public entity, but do not include easements, encroachments and other property that are located on the property of the public entity but are not owned or controlled by the entity.”

“Where the public entity’s relationship to the dangerous property is not clear, aid may be sought by inquiring whether the particular defendant had control, in the sense of power to prevent, remedy or guard against the dangerous condition; whether his ownership is a naked title or whether it is coupled with control; and whether a private defendant, having a similar relationship to the property, would be responsible for its safe condition.”  Low v. City of Sacramento (1970) 7 Cal.App.3d 826, 833-834.

Obviously, ownership is a key fact to prove.  Control can be more difficult.  In the case of a jointly controlled intersection, there is typically an agreement between the two public entities. Obtain and examine that agreement (either through discovery or by using the California Public Records Act).  Control can be established by deposing maintenance workers who have personal knowledge of the maintenance work done at the property, and to a limited extent, with written discovery.

In Bonanno v. Central Contra Costa Transit Authority, the California Supreme Court ruled that  “the location of public property, by which users are subjected to hazards on adjacent property, may constitute a dangerous condition” under Government Code sections 830 and 835.  Bonanno v. Central Contra Costa Transit Authority (2003) 30 Cal.4th 139, 815-816.

Therefore, there are factual scenarios where more than one public entity can be responsible for one injury by pleading and proving a dangerous condition of public property cause of action.  In the flooding scenario noted above, the plaintiff also pled an inverse condemnation cause of action.

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: 300 E. State St. Suite 517
      Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

W: http://michaelreiterlaw.com

Codification of the San Bernardino Municipal Code: An Update

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

As a – to my post about the codification of the San Bernardino Municipal Code, here is an update on the situation.  The Mayor and Common Council, at their November 7, 2011 meeting, passed Resolution 2011-299 Authorizing the issuance of a Request for Proposals for Municipal Code Codification Services.  The staff report to the Resolution painted this unflattering picture of how behind the City is in codification:

Table 1.1 Code Supplement Distribution History from 2008 through 2011

 

Time Period Distribution Date Note
1/2008 to 3/31/2008 4/2008 on schedule
4/2008 to 6/30/2008 7/2008 on schedule
7/2008 to 9/30/2008 11/2008 1 month behind schedule
10/2008 to 12/31/2008 9/2009 8 months behind schedule
1/2009 to 3/31/2009 9/2009 5 months behind schedule
4/2009 to 6/30/2009 9/2009 2 months behind schedule
7/2009 to 9/30/2009 10/2009 on schedule
10/2009 to 12/31/2009 1/2010 on schedule
1/2010 to 3/31/2010 3/23/2010 1 week ahead of schedule
4/2010 to 6/30/2010 2/2011 7 months behind schedule
7/2010 to 9/30/2010 2/2011 4 months behind schedule
10/2010 to 12/31/2010 Not yet distributed 9 months behind schedule
1/2011 to 3/31/2011 Not yet distributed 6 months behind schedule
4/2011 to 6/30/2011 Not yet distributed 3 months behind schedule
7/2011 to 9/30/2011 Not yet distributed Due this month

What that means is that it is difficult for the lay observer and the outside professional to find out the state of the law.

For those of you who can provide the services, the City has issued the Request for Proposals for Codification Services dated today, November 14, 2011.  The response to the RFP is due December 12, 2011 at 5 p.m.

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.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

PSA: San Bernardino City Election Forum For City Attorney and City Clerk Candidates September 27, 2011 7:00 p.m. 300 North D Street, San Bernardino

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

There will be another candidate forum on September 27, 2011, sponsored by the San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce, for the candidates for San Bernardino City Attorney, incumbent City Attorney James F. “Jim” Penman and former Public Defender and County Supervisor David L. McKenna at 7 p.m., in the Council Chambers, 300 North D Street, San Bernardino, CA 92418.  At 8 p.m., there will be a forum for the City Clerk candidates, Gigi Hanna, Peggi Hazlett, William Valle, Amelia Sanchez-Lopez and Esther Jimenez.

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.

Address: 300 E. State St. Suite 517

Redlands CA 92373-5235
Telephone: (909) 708-6055

Possible Legal Issues of Joint Campaign Signs in the San Bernardino City Clerk and City Attorney November 2011 Elections

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

This weekend, joint James F. Penman for City Attorney and Amelia Sanchez-Lopez for City Clerk signs popped up in San Bernardino.  Are there any issues in having joint signs?  I cannot remember a specific race that I can point to where there have been joint campaign signs, though a web search shows that they exist in other jurisdictions.  In local, non-partisan races, I can see such a move to be beneficial when a group of candidates want to run together as a reform slate, such as in a recall election, or a city council or school board election where a majority of the council or board can change in one election.

As far as legal issues, the ones that immediately pop into mind are sign code issues (being jointly responsible for the placement of your sign if it violates a sign ordinance (such as being in the public right-of-way).  Presumably, should that happen, both candidates could be held responsible for violating the code.   The other issue could be a campaign disclosure of in-kind contributions.  Say, for example, one well-known, well-financed candidate is paying for the sign, and the other, less-experienced, less well-funded candidate is piggybacking on the sign of the other.  There would need to be campaign disclosures of the in-kind contributions.

The only other issue that I can think of has created a joint sign that does not have the permission of the other candidate.  An example that I have seen online is when someone had a joint sign with a presidential candidate wherein the presidential campaign did not give permission for the sign.

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.

Address : 300 E. State St. Suite 517

Redlands CA 92373-5235
Telephone: (909) 708-6055

Can two public entities be jointly responsible for the same injury under a dangerous condition of public property theory of liability?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

A public entity may only be held liable for a dangerous condition of its property, not for simple negligence or premises liability.   Before I was in private practice helping plaintiffs, I received a good education in a variety of dangerous condition of public property cases when I was Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino and as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands.

A “dangerous condition” is “a condition of property that creates a substantial (as distinguished from a minor, trivial, or insignificant) risk of injury when such property . . . is used with due care in a manner in which it is foreseeable that it will be used.”  Government Code § 830(a).  A public entity is liable for injury caused by a dangerous condition of property it owns or controls if the plaintiff establishes that (1) the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of injury; (2) that the injury was proximately caused by the dangerous condition; (3) the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury incurred; and either (i) a public employee, within the scope of his or her employment, negligent or wrongly committed an act or omission that created the condition or (ii) the entity had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition in sufficient time before the injury to take protective measures against the dangerous condition.  Government Code §§ 830, 835.

What are the kinds of scenarios that might involve two public entities, or a mix of public entities and private entities?  The scenarios I have seen as an attorney have included:

1. A city, a water district, and a private land owner, where a sidewalk panel was removed to replace a meter box, and the sidewalk panel was never replaced.  The plaintiff tripped and fell.

2. A city, a school district, and an adjoining land owner, and a nonprofit youth organization, where the plaintiff tripped over a utility cover, wherein the surrounding compacted dirt had eroded over the years, but no sidewalk ever existed.

3. A city, a county, and a private land owner, and a private party, where a motorcyclist died at an intersection jointly controlled by the city and county, when the motorcyclist was struck by the private party’s automobile.

4. A trip and fall that happened only in one city, but the plaintiff sued two cities because it was not clear which entity owned or controlled the sidewalk.

5. An injury to a person who was waiting at a bus stop from a city tree in a city park, but at a bus stop owned and controlled by a joint-powers authority transit system.

6. A flooding case wherein the flood control channel was owned by a county flood control agency, but the culvert and bridge were owned by a city.

Government Code section 830(c) states “‘Property of a public entity’ and “public property” means real or personal property owned or controlled by the public entity, but do not include easements, encroachments and other property that are located on the property of the public entity but are not owned or controlled by the entity.”

“Where the public entity’s relationship to the dangerous property is not clear, aid may be sought by inquiring whether the particular defendant had control, in the sense of power to prevent, remedy or guard against the dangerous condition; whether his ownership is a naked title or whether it is coupled with control; and whether a private defendant, having a similar relationship to the property, would be responsible for its safe condition.”  Low v. City of Sacramento (1970) 7 Cal.App.3d 826, 833-834.

Obviously, ownership is a key fact to prove.  Control can be more difficult.  In the case of a jointly controlled intersection, there is typically an agreement between the two public entities. Obtain and examine that agreement (either through discovery or by using the California Public Records Act).  Control can be established by deposing maintenance workers who have personal knowledge of the maintenance work done at the property, and to a limited extent, with written discovery.

Also, conditions of adjacent property can make public property hazardous.  In Bonanno v. Central Contra Costa Transit Authority, the California Supreme Court ruled that  “the location of public property, by which users are subjected to hazards on adjacent property, may constitute a dangerous condition” under Government Code sections 830 and 835.  Bonanno v. Central Contra Costa Transit Authority (2003) 30 Cal.4th 139, 815-816.

Therefore, there are factual scenarios where more than one public entity can be responsible for one injury by pleading and proving a dangerous condition of public property cause of action.  In the flooding scenario noted above, the plaintiff also pled an inverse condemnation cause of action.

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.

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