Legal Notes

Overview

Legal Notes

Article Legal Notes Rick Jarvis

Your city’s development fee account could be vulnerable to multimillion-dollar refund claims

New development projects increase demand on existing public infrastructure. To fund improvements, cities often impose development impact fees, which are governed by the Mitigation Fee Act. Recently, courts have interpreted this law in a more rigid manner, suggesting that any fees held unspent for more than five years must be refunded.

CalPERS headquarters
Article Legal Notes By Steven M. Berliner

New state law increases pension-related costs for cities: How municipalities can mitigate the impact

A new law went into effect at the beginning of this year that creates new liabilities for public agencies when reporting compensation, shifting exposure for reporting mistakes from retirees almost exclusively to the employer. 

Article Legal Notes By Amy Oppenheimer and Christina Ro-Connolly

Unintentional misconduct is still misconduct: Tips for investigating unconscious bias

Countless studies have confirmed that bias, particularly unconscious bias, informs our interactions, even in people who are genuinely committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In the workplace, this is commonly expressed in who we prefer to hire.

Article Legal Notes By Christine N. Wood and Jennifer Ransom

Online services and information: Considerations for ensuring accessible, legally-compliant city websites

The range of information and services available online varies from city to city, as does the level of accessibility offered by city websites. However, as cities continue to transition to internet-based information and services, they should take care to ensure that such information and services are equally accessible to all individuals, including those with disabilities

Article Legal Notes by Lee Roistacher and Kimberly Sullivan

Legal releases and city-sponsored youth recreation programs in the digital age

Through sports leagues, camps, recreation centers, ball fields, courts, and parks, local governments play a large role in providing opportunities for youth recreation. To ensure they can continue to offer such valuable programs for youth in their communities, local governments should also take steps to minimize potential liability risks associated with youth recreation.

Two people shaking hands with an onlooker.
Article Legal Notes by Shelline Bennett

Bringing back decorum and civility in the public sector

City councils set the tone, tenor, and behavior that agencies look to emulate. Leadership and ethics go hand in hand and require honesty and personal integrity. The age-old adage is true — people follow willingly, with greater productivity, if their leaders are individuals they respect. What can elected officials and senior city management do to help set high standards for employees, elected officials, and the city itself?  

Storm water flows through drain.
Article Legal Notes by John J. Harris

California municipal stormwater permits: recent court cases cities should consider

One of the primary points of contention between cities and water boards has been the cost of achieving water quality goals – the water boards have steadily imposed more restrictive requirements in municipal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, while expecting cities and counties alone to bear the costs. This article covers two court decisions affecting cities and the key takeaways for local government officials.

Water supply cover
Article Legal Notes by Michael G. Colantuono

A legal win for city finance – Supreme Court holds utility rates not subject to referendum

Referendum is a power granted to voters, essentially allowing the electorate to put statutes adopted by legislative bodies to a vote of the people. However, the recent California Supreme Court decision in Wilde v. City of Dunsmuir held that water rates are not subject to referendum, making this an important win for public utilities and local governments, and boosting stability in local finance.

Article Legal Notes by Thomas D. Jex and Denise S. Bazzano

A Refresher on General Conflict-of-Interest Rules

This article provides newly elected officials an overview of some of the key conflict-of-interest rules under the Political Reform Act — and a refresher for more seasoned council members.

Article Legal Notes by Valerie Escalante Troesh and Matthew R. Silver

SB 450: A Path Toward Improving Communities

By waiving environmental review for qualifying projects and incentivizing investments, SB 450 may aid cities’ efforts to combat homelessness.

Article Legal Notes by Michael Fehner

In California, Some Insurance Policies Age Like Fine Wine

It is a common misconception that old insurance policies are good only for museums and archival research; some old policies are capable of providing substantial coverage even today.

Article Legal Notes by Nora Wetzel

Cyberattacks and Public Agency Response

Taking proactive steps is the key to preventing or recovering from a cyberattack. Cities should implement preventive measures with an emphasis on best practices.

Article Legal Notes by Gage Dungy and Savana Manglona

New Law Expands Workplace Lactation Accommodation Requirements for Employers

New legislation significantly expands the obligation of all California employers to provide lactation accommodations for employees. As a result, cities should be aware of these new obligations to ensure their worksites are compliant.

Article Legal Notes by Stephen A. McEwen

Code Enforcement by Drone: Critical Considerations Before Launching

Because not all potential code violations can be investigated from the public right of way, code enforcement investigations may require access to enclosed or shielded areas of private property. In these settings, code enforcement staff may be strongly tempted to rely on emerging drone technology.

Article Legal Notes by Jeff Sloan and Tim Yeung

Investigating Complaints Against Public Employees: New Clarity for Employers

A recent decision from the Public Employment Relations Board provides clarity for employers struggling to balance the need for strict confidentiality with the due process rights of the accused and union requests for information, particularly in cases of sexual harassment.

Article Legal Notes by Gary B. Bell and Holly O. Whatley

Wayfair Decision Means More Sales and Use Tax Revenues for Cities

A new law will help bridge the tax collection gap for online sales.

Article Legal Notes by Alex Pal

Disasters in California: A Brief Overview of Preparedness, Proclamations and Assistance

Though California cities cannot predict or prevent the next disaster, they can take steps to maximize preparedness and build capacity.

Article Legal Notes by Joaquin Vazquez

Safe Sidewalk Vending Act Curbs Local Regulations: What You Need to Know

This new law affects cities in several significant ways.

Article Legal Notes by Jennifer Gore

Dockless Bicycles and Scooters: Responding to New Technology

Few technologies have overtaken cities as quickly as that of dockless bicycles and scooters, and these devices have proved difficult for cities to regulate.

Article Legal Notes by Christian Marsh

California’s Public Trust Doctrine Draws Attention in the Courts

During the past decade, California has experienced a surge in the volume of public trust cases and recent court decisions.