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

Creating a Tracked-Changes Version of An Ordinance, Resolution, or Charter Is Helpful to The City Council or Legislative Body

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

In my series about the Charter of the City of San Bernardino, I have created tracked change versions of the Charter through the years.  I started by recreating a modern version of the 1905 Charter.   I created that by finding the Statutes of 1905, page 940.  This book is now in the public domain, having left copyright a long time ago.  Google has scanned the book.  If you look at the first page, the physical book scanned by Google was from the ” Library Leland Stanford Junior University.”  Though it is a cut-and-paste job to get from the OCR version provided by Google,  you have to go line-by-line and take out the funky annotations.

Then, as the Charter of the City of San Bernardino was updated, first (successfully) in 1908, I took the 1905 Charter, reviewed the changes added by charter amendment, and made a strike out version with additions and deletions.  Each charter amendment is in the Statutes of California for the respective year of passage, because the Legislature of the State of California had to approve the changes until the law changed, and now municipal charters must be sent to the Secretary of State, so they still appear in the Statutes of California.  You can find these at better law libraries; in particular, I can recommend the Victor Miceli Law Library, where I found the versions that I use in the series.  They also have an excellent legislative history collection.

Back to the subject at hand, here is an example of a strikeout or legislative version:

Section 133. Whenever the mayor and common council shall by ordinance or resolution, determine that the public interest or necessity demands the acquisition, construction, or completion of any municipal improvement, the cost of which would be too great to be paid out of the ordinary annual income and revenue of the city, they are hereby given the power and authority to call a special election and submit to the qualified voters of the city the proposition of incurring indebtedness to pay the cost of such improvement set forth in said ordinance or resolution. If said proposition be accepted by a two-thirds vote of the qualified electors voting at such election, the mayor and common council may issue and dispose of bonds of said city in evidence of said indebtedness.; provided that such indebtedness, together with the unpaid and outstanding bonded indebtedness actually existing at the time such proposition is submitted to said voters, shall not exceed three hundred and fifty thousand dollars.  But the city or municipal corporation of San Bernardino shall not incur any indebtedness for public improvements which shall in the aggregate exceed fifteen (15) per cent of the assessed value of all the real and personal property of said city or municipal corporation.  In all other respects not herein provided for, the procedure for calling and holding such elections and the issuance of bonds shall be governed by general law of the State of California applicable to cities of the fifth class.

A strikeout version allows the city council member (or in the case of a charter amendment, the voter to see what is being changed).   A strikeout version is particularly useful to a member of a legislative body if an entire chapter or title is being changed because it allows them to see a large amount of changes.  I recommend to any municipal attorney to consider creating a strike out version for their clients even if one is not specifically requested.

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

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

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

How To Change A Code Enforcement Misdemeanor Into An Infraction

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

When I was a Deputy City Attorney in San Bernardino and the Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands, many of the code sections I prosecuted were alternate misdemeanors/infractions, also known as wobblettes to distinguish them from alternate felony/misdemeanors, which are known as wobblers. Usually, the code section will designate punishment and note if the charge is an alternate misdemeanor/infraction, or a code will have a general penalty section. Typically, the city prosecutor will have prosecutorial discretion on how to charge the violation or how to plea it out. If it is a straight misdemeanor, and the code does not have a provision allowing prosecutorial discretion in reducing it to an infraction, the prosecutor does not have the ability to reduce the charge to an infraction. Similarly, if it is a straight infraction, which are never punishable by jail time, the city prosecutor does not have the ability to make the charge a misdemeanor. Why would someone want a misdemeanor instead of an infraction? Perhaps they served jail time, possibly on a bench warrant, possibly on some other charge, and they want credit for time served in lieu of a fine.

Can a court reduce a code enforcement misdemeanor to an infraction? I have seen it done in San Bernardino both to straight misdemeanors and alternative misdemeanor/infraction cases. Penal Code section 17(b) is the authority many criminal judges are familiar with regarding wobblers. But what about wobblettes? Penal Code section 17(d) reads:

A violation of any code section listed in Section 19.8 is an infraction subject to the procedures described in Sections 19.6 and 19.7 when: (1) The prosecutor files a complaint charging the offense as an infraction unless the defendant, at the time he or she is arraigned, after being informed of his or her rights, elects to have the case proceed as a misdemeanor, or; (2) The court, with the consent of the defendant, determines that the offense is an infraction in which event the case shall proceed as if the defendant had been arraigned on an infraction complaint.

Penal Code section 19.8 refers to a variety of California code sections, but does not reference Municipal Code violations. Penal Code section 19.8 does refer to other offenses made subject to 17(d) by the Legislature, but presumably that means the California Legislature, and not a legislative body like a city council.

Straight misdemeanors were difficult at times, particularly violations of the California Fire Code. Sometimes a barrier to settlement was not the punishment (as far as fines), but the fact that the charge was a misdemeanor. The work-around was finding an alternate violation for the same conduct.

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

The Number One Issue in the San Bernardino City Clerk’s Election in November 2011

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The City of San Bernardino City Clerk’s Office is currently responsible for maintaining and updating the Municipal Code.  While, as I discussed before, the online municipal code is not authoritative, and should not be relied on, good government dictates that cities maintain a fairly up-to-date online municipal code.  Yet, as of the date of this post, the online City of San Bernardino Municipal Code was last revised on November 2, 2009.  This may not be the number one issue in the San Bernardino City Clerk’s Election in November 2011 for the candidates, but it should be.

My recent dealings with the San Bernardino City Clerk’s Office, and indeed my dealings in almost five years as a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, have been good.  When I asked for a copy of the garage sale ordinance, it was emailed to me right away.  They also very promptly presented me with a copy of David L. McKenna’s campaign filings in person.  I recently filed a batch of Government Claims with the City Clerk’s Office, and the staff was professional and courteous.  This is contrast to other dealings with local public entities, such as found in my post, How Not To Handle Government Claims.   The retiring City Clerk, Rachel Clark, was always very nice to me during the duration of my time with the City and after.

However, in this day and age, the online San Bernardino Municipal Code should be online because it takes time away from staff to have to provide updated information not available online.   If the City Clerk’s Office is not open, the public should be able to find out about the current code.  Lastly, even though no one should rely on an online municipal code, nor can they rely on an out-of-date municipal code. If you cannot easily find the current law, how can a resident obey the law?

If the City Clerk’s Office does not have the resources to update the code online, then it should be sent out to a private company.  I am not sure when the codification came in-house, but the City Clerk’s Office handled codification during my entire tenure at the City Attorney’s Office.  Looking at the online code, this was not always the case:

San Bernardino Municipal Code section 1.01.010 Adoption.
Pursuant to the provisions of Sections 50022.1 through 50022.8 and 50022.10 of the Government Code, there is adopted the “San Bernardino Municipal Code” as published by Book Publishing Company, Seattle, Washington, together with those secondary codes adopted by reference as authorized by the California State Legislature, save and except those portions of the secondary codes as are deleted or modified by the provisions of the “San Bernardino Municipal Code.” (Ord. 3981 §1, 1980.)

As far as I can tell, Book Publishing Company or BPC was acquired in 2001, so it no longer exists.  Yet, the Municipal Code still lists it as the Code’s publisher, and as I discussed, it was not the Code’s publisher in 2001, and possibly even before.

In 2011, there is no excuse not to have an accurate online code with timely updates.  Hopefully, the next City Clerk will immediately rectify the situation

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

Contact Information for City of San Bernardino Candidates Election 2011

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

[Updated October 18, 2011]

The City of San Bernardino’s municipal election in November 2011  is very important to the people of San Bernardino.  Traditionally, there has not been a lot of quality information, and as local news-gathering diminishes, I thought, as a public service, I could provide a list of contact information.  I was frustrated a few years ago in a “Pick 4” election for a school board.  I knew two of my votes, but rather than undervote, or randomly vote, I tried to find information about the other people running for office.  It was very difficult to do.  In our online age, that should no longer be an issue.  In that spirit, here is the contact information that I have so far as of October 18, 2011 for the November 8, 2011 election.  I am including the contested races.  The phone numbers and email are from the public internet, usually the campaign website or the public Facebook Info Page.   If any candidate wants any of this information changed, updated or removed, I will do so upon contact by the campaign.  Once again, the order is the same as on the San Bernardino Registrar of Voters Candidate list :

City of San Bernardino Third Ward

Tobin Brinker:  Website, Facebook. As of the morning of October 7 2011, there is no phone number on the official campaign website,  Email.

John Valdivia:  WebsiteFacebook,  Phone number: (877) 825–3270, Email.

City of San Bernardino Fifth Ward

Chas Kelley: Friends of Chas Kelley sent a letter with a magnet.  The magnet says, among other things, “Visit Chas on Facebook,” but I’m still unable to find a Facebook profile for Council Member Kelley as of October 7, 2011.  The magnet also gives a Phone Number: (909) 648-3506 and an Email.

Larry A. Lee:  Website, FacebookEmail.

City of San Bernardino Seventh Ward

Wendy McCammack does not appear to have an online campaign presence at this time.  I was unable to locate an email address nor a phone number as of October 18, 2011

Jim Mulvihill: Facebook,  Phone Number (from public Facebook Page): 909-886-1333, Email.

City of San Bernardino City Clerk

Georgeann “Gigi” Hanna  FacebookWebsite, Phone Number from Public Facebook Page: 909-709-2019, Email.

Peggi Hazlett:  Facebook, as of October 6, 2011, no other information.

Esther Jimenez:  Facebook, Email.

Amelia Sanchez-Lopez:  WebsiteFacebook, Phone number (from Jim Penman’s mailer #2) (909) 882-7085,  Email.

William A. Valle: Website,  Facebook, Phone Number from Public Facebook Page: (909) 486-5636, Email.

City Attorney

David L. McKenna:  Website, Facebook, Phone Number from Campaign Flier and Campaign Website: (909) 264-9021, Email.

James F. “Jim” Penman: Website (as of 10/18/2011, not yet functional, but mentioned in second mailer), Phone Number from Mailers: (909) 882-8986, Email.

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

Signs of Fall: Election Billboards and Campaign Signs Popping Up in San Bernardino for Election 2011

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Chas Kelley, before he was elected to the Council, told a story of how he kept calling a local billboard company to make sure that he would be able to rent the billboards.  Apparently, he still is in contact with the billboard company because the Chas Kelley billboard, appropriately in Kelly green, is up on Kendall Drive.  There is also a Gigi Hanna lawn sign on the Habitat for Humanity house  built on E Street, and a Larry Lee yard sign further south on E Street, including a website address on the sign.

Let’s look at the state of affairs in the 2011 election so far (taken, in the same order, and same ballot titles as the San Bernardino Registrar of Voters Candidate list :

The candidates

Third Ward:

Tobin Brinker, Teacher/Councilman

John Valdivia, Advertising Representative

Fifth Ward

Chas A. Kelley, City Councilman, 5th Ward

Larry A. Lee, Minister/Sr. Pastor

Sixth Ward

Rikke Van Johnson

Seventh Ward

Wendy J. McCammack, Councilwoman/Business Owner

Jim Mulvihill, University Professor/Businessman

City Clerk

Georgeann “Gigi” Hanna, Communications/Administration Manager

Peggi Hazlett, Assistant to Mayor

Esther Jimenez, Senior Legislative Assistant

Amelia Sanchez-Lopez, Health Education Specialist

William A. Valle, Maintenance Clerk

City Attorney

David L. McKenna, Civil Litigation Attorney

James F. “Jim” Penman

San Bernardino City Attorney

City Treasurer

David C. Kennedy
Where are we in this campaign?  It’s just getting started.  As I related in the earlier discussion regarding the City Clerk’s race; local candidates wait until after Labor Day, but can be punished if they wait too long because of the effect of vote by mail.  According to the Registrar, the first day that Vote by Mail ballots can be mailed is October 11, 2011.  Similarly, early voting at the Registrar of Voters begins on October 11, 2011, a little than a month before the elections.  This is the “get to know you” part of the campaign, where candidates extoll their virtues rather than attack their opponent (the City Attorney’s race notwithstanding).

So, which candidates are on the ball and have working internet sites (that can be found at this date and time)?

As of the morning of September 13, 2011, less than two months from the election, in the same Registrar of Voters order:

City of San Bernardino Third Ward

These are the most notable sites of all the elections:

Third Ward council member Tobin Brinker has a functional, up-to-date website, and a Facebook page.  The main site has a blog.  There are links to YouTube endorsement videos, which is a cost-effective use of video.

Third Ward challenger John Valdivia has a website, too.  And a Facebook page and a Twitter feed.  They are not quite as polished as council member Brinker’s sites, but they are full of enthusiasm that any challenger could use as a model.

City of San Bernardino Fifth Ward

Fifth Ward council member Chas Kelley does not appear to have a website up and running at this moment.

Fifth Ward challenger Larry A. Lee has a website and a more active Facebook page.

City of San Bernardino Sixth Ward

Rikke Van Johnson is running unopposed.  Council member Johnson does have a personal Facebook page.  There is a link to website on the page, but it is currently a dead link.

City of San Bernardino Seventh Ward

Seventh Ward Council member Wendy McCammack does not appear to have an online presence at this time.

Perennial Seventh Ward challenger Jim Mulvihill has a Facebook page, but does not appear to have a website.

City of San Bernardino City Clerk

This is a rare open race with no incumbent.

City Clerk candidate Georgeann “Gigi” Hanna.  It took a little searching, but Ms. Hanna does have a Facebook page.

City Clerk candidate Peggi Hazlett, does not appear to have a web presence at the moment beyond a LinkedIn page that is not related to her bid.

City Clerk candidate Esther Jimenez has a Facebook page.  She does not appear to have a website.

City Clerk candidate Amelia Sanchez-Lopez has a brochure-style website.  Ms. Sanchez-Lopez does not appear to have a Facebook page.

City Clerk candidate William A. Valle has a Facebook page.  He also has a website.

City Attorney

City Attorney challenger David L. McKenna has a very simple website.  He may have a Facebook page, but I was unable to find it.

San Bernardino City Attorney James F. “Jim” Penman does have a website, electpenman.com that still features his last Mayoral campaign.

City Treasurer

City Treasurer David C. Kennedy is unchallenged, and virtually absent from the Internet.

The most interesting information that I have found on the web is the Third Ward race.  I think the other candidates in contested elections should look at the two contenders in that race for ideas about what to do.

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

Why an In-House Public Lawyer Should Stay Out of Politics and Not Express Their Opinion if They Are Not Asked

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Some attorneys are very political.  They donate to local, state and federal candidates.  They hold fundraisers at their multi-million dollar houses (yes, even in the Inland Empire). Sometimes they are very associated with one political party or another.  Some become local officials.  I have no idea if this is beneficial or detrimental  for their practices, firms, well-being, or pocket book.

Public lawyers, and by public lawyers I mean in-house civil attorneys, typically in an in-house City Attorney’s Office or Office of County Counsel, may have opinions but it is usually best if they do not openly express them.  The entity, of course, is the client, but an entity is run by actual human beings.

As long time readers know, I was the Assistant City Attorney of the City of Redlands and a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, each for over four years, for a total of almost nine and a half years.   The environment in each office was different.  In Redlands, it was (then) a two person operation, which, for the size, workload and complexity of the organization, could have accommodated three attorneys.  The City Attorney was and is appointed by the City Council.  A majority of a Council quorum can remove the City Attorney, subject to the City Attorney’s agreement with the Council.  That is a different kind of political environment from the City of San Bernardino.

The City of San Bernardino, with an elected City Attorney, elections every two years, with charter fights, was a Politically-charged entity.  By “Politically,” with a capital P,  I mean municipal election politics.  While the employees of that office felt the secondary effects of the political winds, I was always allowed to do my job.  Certainly, when someone aims for the elected City Attorney, sometimes they hit a deputy.  But for the most part, the Mayor and Common Council, and the staff of the City viewed me, as a Deputy, as a non-c0mbatant.  Humorously, they sometimes treated me as if I were a victim of an evil regime.

People sometimes interpreted, when I was a prosecutor, that I was personally prosecuting people because I was a supporter of whatever ordinance I was prosecuting.   No, I was doing my duty to enforce the rules made by the policy makers.  If there was a problem with a particular rule, a political solution needed to be forged to change the rule.  That political solution was not one that I, as a Deputy City Attorney or the Assistant City Attorney, was going to be a part of, unless I was directed to draft an ordinance by the City Attorney.

Obviously, a wise public lawyer has to fit into the inter-office politics in the in-house environment.   That’s not what I am talking about, and that’s the same in any office with more than one person.  The public lawyer must be political in that sense.

Similarly, as an independent attorney, I do not hold any particular positions on the subjects that I write about.  Even if I am recounting my past actions, I did the things I did because it was my job to do them, because they benefited my public entity client, and it was at the direction of the political decision-makers of the entity.   I was never asked to do anything that was unethical, and even if I were asked to do something unethical, I would not do it.  However, very seldom does the public entity practitioner reach the bounds of the California Rules of Professional Conduct.

For example, someone thought I had a position on allowing Food Trucks in San Bernardino County.  I do not have a personal opinion on the subject.  If a small business retains me to represent them on the subject, my opinion is the same as the client.  I give advice in a neutral fashion, the pluses and minuses of any particular situation.  However, the best interest of the client must be kept in mind at all times.

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.

Copyright 2011 Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374

T: (909) 708-6055

E: michael@michaelreiterlaw.com

W: http://michaelreiterlaw.com

 

Duties of the City Clerk Under California Law In a General Law California City

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

In a general law California city, the City Clerk’s duties are created by state law and by city or town ordinances and resolutions.  State law establishes the duties of  a general law City Clerk in Government Code section 40801, et seq.

The Duties of the California general law City Clerk are:

1. Clerical: Keep accurate record of the legislative body and board of equalization in books bearing appropriate titles and devoted exclusively to such purposes  with a comprehensive general index. The City Clerk shall keep an ordinance book and record all certified city ordinances.   The record with the certificate is prima facie evidence of the ordinance’s passage, publication and contents.  The official records should not be filed in any court proceeding.  The City Clerk is the custodian of the city seal.  The City Clerk can administer City oaths, take and certify City affidavits and depositions, and appoint deputies.  (Government Code sections 40801, 40806, 40807, 40813, 40814);

2. Financial: The City Clerk is the City’s accounting officer and shall retain records reflecting the City’s financial condition.  The City Clerk shall cause to be published a summary of the City’s financial report (required by Government Code section 53891 in the form prescribed by the the State Controller) once in a newspaper of general circulation, or if no newspaper, according to code, and posted no later than 120 days after the fiscal year’s close, and the clerk’s financial and accounting duties can be transferred to the finance director.  The City clerk is the ex officio assessor for the assessment and collection of city taxes unless delegated to the county.  (Government Code sections 40802, 40804, 40805, 40805.5, 40810); and

3. Other:  The City Clerk shall perform “such additional duties as are prescribed by ordinance.” ( Government Code section 40812).

 

The City Clerk also has duties created by the Election Code regarding elections and other duties in the Government Code, such as notifying the county board of supervisors regarding the change of a place name or number (Government Code section 34092).  The Government Claims Act allows a government claim to be filed with a city clerk.  Government Code section 915(a)(1).  The City Clerk is also receives Statements of Economic Interest under the Political Reform Act, as well as other duties under the Act.  Government Code section 87500(f).
Other duties can be prescribed by ordinance.  The City of Rancho Cucamonga, for example, requires certain documents on appeals to be filed with the City Clerk.  As I have mentioned before, often California Public Records Act requests are routed through or answered by the City Clerk.  The City Clerk in Redlands sold Fourth of July tickets at the University of Redlands on behalf of  the Redlands 4th of July Committee, Inc.  Many City Clerks process passports for the State Department.

 

A charter law City’s City Clerk’s duties will be created by the City’s Charter.  For example, the City of San Bernardino’s City Charter, Section 60 is very similar to the Government Code’s prescribed duties.

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