Legal Opinions of the Attorney General -
Yearly Index

Opinions published in 2020

Opinion Question Conclusion Published
19-1201 JEREMIAH BROSOWSKE (Relator) requests leave to sue Defendants CITY OF HESPERIA and BRIGIT BENNINGTON in quo warranto to remove Defendant Bennington from the District 4 seat on the Hesperia City Council, on the ground that Relator is lawfully entitled to hold that seat, but was wrongfully unseated by the City Council due to an alleged ineligibility to hold the office. Relator raises substantial issues of fact and law as to his eligibility to hold the District 4 seat on the Hesperia City Council and, therefore, as to Defendant Bennington’s present right to hold that seat. Because it is in the public interest to have those issues judicially resolved, Relator’s request for leave to sue is GRANTED.

Official Citation: 103 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 33
08/24/2020
19-701 Should the repeal of the Palo Alto city charter’s binding arbitration provision, which governed disputes with public safety employee unions, be invalidated on the ground that the City of Palo Alto failed to consult in good faith with Local 1319 before placing the repeal measure on the ballot? Leave to sue is GRANTED to determine whether to invalidate the repeal of the Palo Alto city charter’s binding arbitration provision on the ground that the City of Palo Alto failed to consult in good faith with Local 1319 before placing the repeal measure on the ballot.

Official Citation: 103 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 1
02/07/2020
18-901 1. Would it violate the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act for a majority of Fair Political Practices Commission members to meet privately over lunch and discuss how the Bagley-Keene Act applies to the Commission?

2. Where a meeting agenda for the Fair Political Practices Commission contains a general statement that the Commission may act on “any” item listed on the agenda, but the description of a specific agenda item states only that the matter will be discussed, may the Commission vote on that specific agenda item without violating the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act?

3. Would it violate the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act for a member of the Fair Political Practices Commission to respond to an email message—sent from a member of the public to all five Commission members and other members of the public concerning an item of Commission business—by replying via email only to the sender of that message and the other members of the public?
1. It would violate the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act for a majority of Fair Political Practices Commission members to meet privately over lunch and discuss how the Act applies to the Commission.

2. Viewed in light of the Bagley-Keene Act’s “substantial compliance” standard, the Commission’s vote on a specific agenda item would not be voidable where the Commission’s meeting agenda contained a general statement that the Commission may act on “any” item listed on the agenda, but the description of the specific agenda item stated only that the matter would be “discussed.”

3. It would not violate the Act for a member of the Commission to respond to an email message—sent from a member of the public to all five Commission members and other members of the public concerning an item of Commission business—by replying via email only to the sender of that message and the other members of the public.

Official Citation: 103 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 42
09/22/2020
17-101 1. Under Government Code sections 53200–53210, may a city council lawfully provide its members with health and welfare benefits through a plan into which the city pays a flat rate plus a percentage of the average of the salaries of selected managerial employees, where the extra percentage is not made available to other city officers and employees?

2. May an unintentional violation of Government Code sections 53200–53210 lead to criminal penalties?

3. If a city council provides its own members with health and welfare benefits that exceed what is allowed under Government Code sections 53200–53210, what recourse does the city have to recoup its overpayment, including interest on that overpayment?

4. May a city council approve a settlement agreement between the city and a current city council member to repay the city for the excessive health and welfare benefits received—including an agreement that waives some or all of the city’s overpayment—if that member is recused from voting on the agreement?
1. No, under Government Code sections 53200–53210, a city may not lawfully provide its city council members with health and welfare benefits through a plan into which the city pays a flat rate plus a percentage of the average of the salaries of selected managerial employees, where the extra percentage is not made available to other city officers and employees.

2. A violation of Government Code sections 53200–53210 that is unintentional could lead to criminal penalties only if it resulted from a failure to ascertain the relevant legal obligations that was so unreasonable as to constitute criminal negligence.

3. The city may seek to recoup its overpayment of city council members’ health and welfare benefits, including interest, in a civil action against those who received or approved the excessive benefits.

4. A city council may approve a settlement agreement between the city and a current city council member to repay the city for the excessive health and welfare benefits received if that member is recused from voting on the agreement and the other “remote interest” requirements of Government Code section 1091, subdivision (b)(15) are met. Although a city has discretion to waive a claim in part or in full if doubt or a dispute exists as to the claim’s validity or amount, a city may not waive a valid claim of an indisputable amount because doing so would result in an unconstitutional gift of public funds.

Official Citation: 103 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 8
03/03/2020
15-1102 1. Under California’s Housing Authorities Law (Health & Saf. Code, § 34200 et seq.), may a local housing authority operate throughout the entire state?

2. May a corporation or other instrumentality formed by a local housing authority exercise the statutory powers of a local housing authority throughout the entire state?

3. May a local housing authority accept a federal grant for a housing project that is outside its territorial jurisdiction?

4. May an out-of-state housing authority, or a corporation formed by an out-of-state housing authority, exercise the statutory powers of a housing authority in California?
1. Under California’s Housing Authorities Law (Health & Saf. Code, § 34200 et seq.), a local housing authority may not operate generally throughout the entire state; it may operate outside its defined geographic boundaries as specifically allowed or contemplated by statute.

2. A local housing authority may not delegate a statutory power it does not have. Because a local housing authority may not operate generally throughout the entire state under state law, it may not delegate such power to a corporation or other instrumentality.

3. State law does not allow a local housing authority to accept a federal grant for a housing project outside its territorial jurisdiction.

4. An out-of-state housing authority, or a corporation formed by an out-of-state housing authority, may not exercise the statutory powers of a housing authority in California.

Official Citation: 103 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 17
03/17/2020
15-301 What is the meaning of the term “effective date,” as used in Business and Professions Code section 805, which requires a report to be filed with the relevant state healing arts licensing agency “within 15 days after the effective date” of certain actions taken by a peer review body against specified health care practice licentiates? The term “effective date,” as used in Business and Professions Code section 805, means the date on which the triggering decision becomes final, following the conclusion of any appeal by the licentiate to the peer review body, except where expressly provided otherwise.

Official Citation: 103 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 27
04/17/2020