Did the San Bernardino Unified School District Violate Education Code Section 7054 Regarding Advocacy For Measure N on The November 6, 2012 Ballot?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Measure N is the San Bernardino City Unified School District’s bond measure is to sell $250,000,000 (250 million dollars or a quarter billion dollars) in aggregate principal of  bonds with a maturity not to exceed twenty-five years. The ballot statement and resolution do not give the total cost to the bond issue including principal and interest.  The District’s estimate is that it will cost property owners $34 per year for each $100,000 of assessed value to pay the principal and interest on the bonds (which is in addition to any existing bonds).  It was placed on the ballot by the Board of Education on August 7, 2012 by a six to one vote.  The members voting for were Barbara Flores, Mike Gallo, Margaret Hill, Bobbie Perong, Lynda Savage, Judi Penman.  Danny Tillman voted no.  The measure requires a 55 percent “yes” vote to pass per Proposition 39 (2000) and Education Code section 15264.  In connection with Measure N, the San Bernardino Unified School District has sent mass mailings, including this piece:

California Education Code section 7054 reads, as of today:

(a) No school district or community college district funds, services, supplies, or equipment shall be used for the purpose of urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure or candidate, including, but not limited to, any candidate for election to the governing board of the district.
(b) Nothing in this section shall prohibit the use of any of the public resources described in subdivision (a) to provide information to the public about the possible effects of any bond issue or other ballot measure if both of the following conditions are met:
(1) The informational activities are otherwise authorized by the Constitution or laws of this state.
(2) The information provided constitutes a fair and impartial presentation of relevant facts to aid the electorate in reaching an informed judgment regarding the bond issue or ballot measure.
(c) A violation of this section shall be a misdemeanor or felony punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both, or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for 16 months, or two or three years.
Therefore, a school district cannot use funds for the purpose of urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure or candidate.  California Education Code section 7054(a).  However, a limitation to California Education Code seciton 7054(a) is that a school district may expend public resources to provide information to the public about the possible effects of any bond issue if two conditions are met.  The informational activities are otherwise allowed by law, and the “information provided constitutes a fair and impartial presentation of relevant facts to aid the electorate in reaching an informed judgment regarding the bond issue or ballot measure.”  California Education Code section 7054(b).  The violation of this section is a wobbler, punishable as a misdemeanor or felony. California Education Code section 7054(b).
In the resolution of August 7, 2012, the San Bernardino Unified School District Board of Directors made this finding:
WHEREAS, the District needs to install lighting, replace and fix fences and update security
alarms to keep students safe during and after school and to protect our schools from gang
members who break into schools, vandalize and steal equipment;  . . .
The front of the mailer states “From the Desk of School District Police Chief Joseph Paulino”

The letter says

Dear Neighbor:

As School District Police Chief, my job is to keep our students and school sites safe.
I also seek to protect our schools from intruders who break into schools, vandalize, steal school equipment and tag walls with graffiti. Unfortunately, many of our schools have outdated security alarms, inadequate fences and limited lighting.
Measure N is on your local ballot.  Among the priorities included in Measure N are the following safety and security upgrades to San Bernardino and Highland schools:
  • Maintain safe, clean clasrooms
  • Repair/replace leaky roofs
  • Remove asbestos and other hazardous materials
  • Repair/replace fire alarms, security and electrical systems
  • Replace old playground equipment with new, safer equipment

Remember to vote on Measure N.

Sincerely,
/s/
Chief Joseph Paulino
San Bernardino School District
Police Department
The Measure does not give an actual project list (meaning, x amount is going to do x at Cajon High School on x date).   However, there is a more generic project list, and this is the relevant section:
School Safety and Energy Efficiency School Projects
Goal and Purpose: The District must protect its schools from gang members who break
into schools, vandalize and steal equipment and tag walls with graffiti. Unless the District
replaces outdated security alarms, inadequate fences and limited safety lighting, it can’t
keep them out. To keep students safe during and after school, projects such as proper
lighting, fences and security alarms are needed:
Student Safety
• Repair and replace security and electrical systems, such as security lighting, fencing,
gates and classroom door locks.
• Upgrade fire alarm systems including fire safety equipment and sprinklers to make
students safe in the event of an emergency.
• Upgrade schools to meet handicap accessibility requirements.
• Remove hazardous materials like asbestos and lead paint from older school sites.
• Increase after-school program space to reduce juvenile violence.
The headline’s question is whether the District’s statement has violated California Education Code section 7055 regarding advocacy for Measure N.  The California Supreme Court decision in Stanson v. Mott (1976) 17 Cal.3d 206 is important to consider in such cases. The Court ruled:
On June 4, 1974, California voters approved a $250 million bond issue to provide funds for the future acquisition of park land and recreational and historical facilities by state and municipal authorities. One day before the election, plaintiff Sam Stanson filed the present taxpayer suit, alleging that defendant William Penn Mott, Jr., director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation (department), had authorized the department to expend more than $5,000 of public funds to promote the passage of the bond issue. Asserting the illegality of such use of public funds, plaintiff sought a judgment that would require Mott personally to repay the funds to the state treasury and any other appropriate relief.

. . .

As we explain, past decisions in both California and our sister states establish that, at least in the absence of clear and explicit legislative authorization, a public agency may not expend public funds to promote a partisan position in an election campaign; in the present case, no legislative provision accorded the Department of Parks and Recreation such authorization. Although the department did possess statutory authority to disseminate ‘information’ to the public relating to the bond election, the department, in fulfilling this informational role, was obligated to provide a fair presentation of the relevant facts. Since plaintiff specifically alleged that public funds were expended for ‘promotional,’ rather then ‘informational,’ purposes, his complaint stated a valid cause of action, and the trial court erred in sustaining defendant’s demurrer. If plaintiff proves the allegations of his complaint at trial, he will be entitled to at least a declaratory judgment that such expenditure of public funds was improper, and, perhaps, to injunctive relief as well.
Whether defendant Mott may be held personally liable for the funds which have already been spent presents a more difficult question. Although early California decisions held public officials strictly liable for any unauthorized expenditure of public funds, even when such expenses were incurred in good faith, subsequent legislation has considerably narrowed the circumstances under which public employees are generally held personally accountable for resultant losses. In accommodating the policy underlying this legislative development with the long-recognized public interest in protecting the public treasury from potential mismanagement or abuse, we conclude that defendant may be held personally liable to repay expended funds only if he failed to exercise due care in authorizing the expenditure of the funds. Stanson v. Mott (1976) 17 Cal.3d 206, 209-210.
What is the difference between promotional and informational? Stanson v. Mott says it’s a fine line, but in the case of Mr. Stanson v. Mr. Mott, left it to the trial court to decide:

Problems may arise, of course, in attempting to distinguish improper ‘campaign’ expenditures from proper ‘informational’ activities. With respect to some activities, the distinction is rather clear; thus, the use of public funds to purchase such items as bumper stickers, posters, advertising ‘floats,’ or television and radio ‘spots’ unquestionably constitutes improper campaign activity (see, e.g., Mines v. Del Valle, supra, 201 Cal. at p. 276, 257 P. 530; Porter v. Tiffany, supra, 502 P.2d at p. 1386), as does the dissemination, at public expense, of campaign literature prepared by private proponents or opponents of a ballot measure. (See 51 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 190, 194 (1968); Stern v. Kramersky, supra, 375 N.Y.S.2d 235.) On the other hand, it is generally accepted that a public agency pursues a proper ‘informational’ role when it simply gives a ‘fair presentation of the facts’ in response to a citizen’s request for information (see Citizens to Protect Pub. Funds v. Board of Education, supra, 98 A.2d 673, 677; Stern v. Kramarsky, supra, 375 N.Y.S.2d 235, 239—240; 51 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 190, 193 (1968)) or, when requested by a public or private organization, it authorizes as agency employee to present the department’s view of a ballot proposal at a meeting of such organization. (See Ed.Code, s 1073;cf. Citizens to Protect Pub. Funds v. Board of Education, supra, 98 A.2d 673, 677.)

      Frequently, however, the line between unauthorized campaign expenditures and authorized informational activities is not so clear. Thus, while past cases indicate that public agencies may generally publish a ‘fair presentation of facts’ relevant to an election matter, in a number of instances publicly financed brochures or newspaper advertisements which have purported to contain only relevant factual information, and which have refrained from exhorting voters to ‘Vote Yes,’ have nevertheless been found to constitute improper campaign literature. (See 35 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 112 (1960); 51 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 190 (1968); cf. 42 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 25, 27 (1964).) In such cases, the determination of the propriety or impropriety of the expenditure depends upon a careful consideration of such factors as the style, tenor and timing of the publication; no hard and fast rule governs every case.  Stanson v. Mott (1976) 17 Cal.3d 206, 221-222.
The question, then, is this presentation “fair and impartial?  The mailer does not say Vote for Measure N, (it says “vote on Mesaure N”).  On the other hand, it says that the Chief wants to keep students and school sites safe, and protect schools from intruders, and that many schools have outdated security alarms, inadequate fences and limited lighting. It then says that Measure N is on the ballot.  It then says that the priorities included in Measure N are the following safety and security upgrades.  Arguably, each of these things are true.  However, someone may argue that in placement of the needs and the solutions to that need together, the San Bernardino Unified School District has gone from a strictly informational piece about Measure N to advocating for voters to vote for Measure N.  Further, the style of the mailer looks like a campaign advocacy piece, showing the picture of the Chief in his uniform, showing stock photos of alarms and a fire pull box, and a drug free, gun free, school zone sign.
Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

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Measure R Proposed San Bernardino County Charter Amendment Initiative November 6, 2012

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Voters in the County of San Bernardino are voting on two competing charter amendments.  The first, alphabetically is Measure Q, which I wrote about yesterday.

Measure R is a voter-submitted Charter Amendment, but unlike Measure Q, amends more than just Article VI, Section 1 of the San Bernardino County Charter:

County Counsel, as required by the Government Code, created a summary of the charter initiative:

COMPENSATION LIMITS AND BUDGET REDUCTIONS FOR MEMBERS OF THE
COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS. INITIATIVE CHARTER AMENDMENT.
Changes the elected office of County Supervisor to a part-time position. Establishes the
maximum monthly compensation for the office of County Supervisor to a total amount of
$5,000 plus a cost of living adjustment not to exceed 5% annually. Cost to the County
of all County Supervisor benefits, including but not limited to, salary, health insurance,
life insurance, leave, retirement, memberships, portable communication devices, and
vehicle allowances shall be included in the $5,000. Establishes a maximum total annual
budget for each Member of the Board of Supervisors at an amount not to exceed five
(5) times the annual compensation amount for each Member. Limits retirement benefits
for the position of County Supervisor to that of regular, non-sworn-peace officer, County
employees. Eliminates the participation by any County Supervisor in the County’s
401(k), 401(a), or 457(b) Plan.

Article I,  Section 1 of the San Bernardino County Charter would be amended to read:

SECTION 1. The Board of Supervisors shall consist of five members, one from
each supervisorial district. The Supervisors shall be nominated and elected at the time
and in the manner provided by general laws, except that provided that each supervisor
shall be elected by the electors of such district and not by the electors of the County at
large.

The position of County Supervisor shall be considered a part-time position.
“Part-time” is defined as attending a minimum of two regular board meetings per
month. Members may hold full-time employment and must comply with economic
disclosure requirements as set forth in the County Code and the California Government
Code. as required.

Article VI, Section 1 would be replaced and Section 2 would be added:

SECTION I. The total compensation of each member of the Board of Supervisors shall be five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) per month, which amount shall include the
actual cost to the County of all benefits of whatever kind or nature including but not
limited to salary, allowances, credit cards, health insurance, life insurance, leave,
retirement, memberships, portable communication devices, and vehicle allowances. This
compensation amount shall be in full compensation for all services by the respective
member of the Board of Supervisors.
Annually, the compensation of Supervisors shall be increased by the percentage
of increase in the cost of living, to be determined by the County Auditor-Controller as of
November I st of each year as shown in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price
Index for the Los Angeles Region, not to exceed five percent (5%) per year, provided that
such adjustments shall be rounded to the nearest $100. Any amount of increase in the
cost of living in excess of five percent (5%) may be accumulated and applied to increase
in salary in future years.

The foregoing compensation provisions shall not be changed except by a vote of
the people at the time of a general election.

SECTION 2. The compensation amount provided in Article VI. Section 1 shall
not include amounts deemed to be mandatory employer contributions and/or payments
under state or federal law, including, but not limited to, contributions for social security,
workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, Public Employee Retirement System,
and reimbursement for actual expenses.

Measure R would add Article I, Section 10:

ARTICLE I. SECTION 10: BOARD OF SUPERVISORS BUDGET
The total annual budget for each Member of the Board of Supervisors, including.
but not limited to, all office operations, and including staff member salaries, office
equipment, rent, vehicle allowances, credit cards. health insurance, life insurance, leave,
retirement, memberships, and portable communication devices shall not exceed five (5)
times the annual compensation amount for each Member as provided in Article VI.
Section I of this Charter. Compensation for each member of the Board of Supervisors
shall be separate and apart from the foregoing amount.
At no time shall any County resources be directed to supplant this provision
through any other county department or division including the County Administrative
Office.
The foregoing compensation provisions shall not be changed except by a vote of
the people at the time of a general election.

The Measure continues with the addition of Article VI, Section 6 to the Charter of the County of San Bernardino:

ARTICLE VI. SECTION 6: RETIREMENT BENEFITS OF MEMBERS OF
THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
SECTION 6. Upon the commencement of the next regular individual respective
term of each member of the Board of Supervisors, each member of the Board of
Supervisors shall thereafter be limited to annual retirement pension benefits of regular,
non-sworn- peace officer, County employees. Any supplemental retirement allowance
and/or contribution on behalf of the respective Supervisors is hereby eliminated,
including, but not limited to, participation in the County’s 401(k) and 401(a) retirement
plans; participation in the County’s 457(b) plan is eliminated; and any matching
payment(s) on behalf of any or all of the Supervisors by the County.
For each member of the Board of Supervisors who is a participant in the County
retirement system and/or any successor retirement system (“retirement system”), the
earnable compensation amount used to calculate the relevant pension formula shall
consist of wages derived from the respective Supervisor’s hourly rate equivalent. All
other forms of compensation, including, but not limited to, automobile allowance, health
benefits, insurance, portable communication device allowance, and leave accrual cash-outs
shall be excluded.
The Board of Supervisors shall not take any action, by ordinance, resolution, or
otherwise, which increases the retirement benefits of members of the Board of
Supervisors, with the exception of statutorily-established cost of living adjustments,
without first obtaining the approval of a majority of those qualified electors voting on the
matter.
Prior to placement of any proposed increased benefits on the ballot, the retirement
system shall prepare, or have prepared on its behalf, an actuarial study of the cost and the
funded and unfunded actuarial accrued liability attributable to the retirement benefit
changes proposed by the amendment. Such actuarial study shall be available to the
public and a summary of the actuarial study shall be published in the ballot pamphlet.

The effective date is the next term of each Supervisor.  Measure Q, Section 5.

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

San Bernardino County Measure Q November 6, 2012

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Voters in the County of San Bernardino are voting on two competing charter amendments.  The first, alphabetically is Measure Q, found below:


Measure Q amends Article VI, Section of 1 of the County of San Bernardino’s Charter, which currently reads:

SECTION 1. The annual salaries of elected County Officials, excepting that of Superintendent of County Schools and other than members of the Board of Supervisors, shall be set by, but shall never exceed, the average of the salaries paid corresponding officials in the following California Counties: Riverside, Kern, San Diego, Orange and Ventura. The salaries shall be computed each year on December 1 as follows: On December 1, 1985, 70% of the average, on December 1, 1986, 80% of the average, on December 1, 1987, 90% of the average, and on December 1, 1988, and thereafter, 100% of the average; provided, however, that on December 1, 1989, and each December 1 thereafter, regardless of the amount of increase in the average salaries from the other counties, no increase shall exceed 4% of the annual salary of the elected official unless submitted to and approved by the voters of the county at a county-wide election. Where no comparable offices exist in a majority of named counties, the salary of the office shall be adjusted by the average of the percentage adjustments of the other county officials governed by this section. No provision of this amendment shall provide retroactive benefits. No salary adjustment shall be made on December 1, 1985, for any elected official whose salary has been adjusted since November 7, 1978, but such salaries shall be adjusted thereafter in accordance with this section.

The annual salaries of members of the Board of Supervisors shall be set by, but shall never exceed, the average of the salaries paid members of the Board of Supervisors in the following California Counties:  Riverside, Orange, San Diego and Los Angeles.  Commencing December 1, 2006, the salaries of the members of the Board of Supervisors shall be 90% of the average of the representative Counties.  On December 1, 2007, the salaries of the members of the Board of Supervisors shall be 95% of the average of the representative Counties.  On December 1, 2008, and thereafter, salaries of the members of the Board of Supervisors shall be 100% of the average of the representative Counties.  The salaries shall be adjusted at such times as the representative Counties are adjusted. Commencing January 1, 2007, the Chair of the Board of Supervisors shall be paid a differential equal to 7.5% of the salary of a Board member in recognition of the additional duties of that office.

Here is a legislative version that I have created, taking the new text and the old text and making a strike-out version:

As you can see, this referendum takes the existing paragraph 2 of the Charter and makes it paragraph one, and makes changes to the existing language without making modifications to the original paragraph 1, now paragraph 2.

The changes to paragraph 1 are changing the term salary to compensation (and including salary and benefits), adding the word comparison before California Counties, and deleting Los Angeles as a comparison county.  It removes the language referring to the increases starting December 1, 206, and defines “compensation” to mean “all salary paid, and the amount of all benefits payable to the Board member or payable on behalf of the Board member, but compensation shall not include amounts a county is otherwise  legally obligated to pay to third parties, including but not limited to employer contributions to a defined benefit retirement system, Medicare, workers compensation or Social Security, and reimbursement for reasonable and necessary business expenses.”  It then gives a new method of recalculating compensation starting December 1, 2013, and states on that date that the maximum salary and benefits must be posted on the County website.

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

Voter Pamphlet in the February 7, 2012 San Bernardino City Clerk General Municipal Election

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters has the Voter Pamphlet online, including candidate statements, a copy of the ballot showing ballot position, voting instructions and a letter from San Bernardino City Clerk Rachel Clark.  The materials are in English and Spanish.

The General Municipal Election is the run-off from the Primary Municipal Election held in November 2011.  The top two candidates were Amelia Sanchez Lopez and Georgeann “Gigi” Hanna, and they are the only candidates in this race.  This is an all mail-in election, and the votes must be received by February 7, 2012.

For more coverage of the San Bernardino General Municipal election, go to sbdpolitics.com.

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