We represent and advise the State-wide university system, counties (including County Assessors and Registrars of Voters), cities, school districts, special districts (including Community Services Districts, Sanitation Agencies, and Levee Districts), and other local agencies (including Mutual Water Companies) concerning:
Governance – Public agency boards must observe the Brown Act when conducting meetings. The law intends that deliberations and actions be done openly, because public agencies exist to conduct the people’s business. Open deliberations serve the best interests of both the agency and the public. We advise public boards about Brown Act compliance, from preparation of agendas to reporting of actions taken in open and closed sessions. When we represent other entities or individuals requesting action by a public board, we know the procedural obligations of the body.
If questions arise about a public agency’s actions, the Public Records Act guarantees access to nearly all records in the agency’s possession. We counsel our public entity clients on responses to Public Records Act requests to ensure full disclosure. In the limited circumstances of documents protected from disclosure under the PRA, we advise the entity on the scope of those protections. Our clients who are constituents seeking information from public agencies appreciate our ability to obtain all available documents from agency staff.
Property Taxes – Property tax revenue is often critical for the funding of city, county, and state budgets. Naturally, the various public agencies occasionally dispute the allocation of tax revenues among themselves, according to complex rules established after Proposition 13 became law in 1978. We represent agencies in all tax allocation disputes, including ad valorem property taxes, sales and use taxes, and tax revenue sharing contracts among entities, known as pass-through agreements.
Our firm enforces tax exemptions, whether based in statutes or deriving from the California Constitution. We serve as special counsel for County Assessors and tax exempt agencies to ensure tax exempt status is properly applied. If exemption is refused for a client entitled to it, we prosecute tax refund claims and cases. We have recovered refunds and interest in excess of $1 million, significant funding for entities suffering from declining tax revenue.
School District Development Mitigation – As a result of limited State funding, school districts face new and varied challenges. Among these is the fact that the costs of constructing facilities to serve new residential development routinely exceed available resources. The State school facility financing law is the LeRoy F. Greene School Facilities Act of 1998, known as SB50. The Legislature expressed the intent in SB50 to provide a means of financing school facility construction, while supporting continued residential development and growth. It is generally recognized by the school district community that the SB50 scheme falls short of funding the actual costs of school facility construction.
Our firm works state-wide with school districts to find creative solutions to the facility construction funding shortfalls which threaten the ability of districts to provide adequate schools for new students in their jurisdiction. For new projects, the best solutions recognize the mutual benefits for residential development and school districts by forging a working partnership between the developers/home-builders and the districts. New, quality schools are often integral to marketing homes for sale, and they support the high quality educational programs of our clients.
The work of our firm can be witnessed among the districts we have been honored to serve. An example of our efforts is the decision in Chawanakee Unified School District v. County of Madera (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 1016, in which we obtained a favorable outcome for our client and a valuable clarification of the effects of SB50 on environmental considerations relating to schools.
Public Works Construction – When public agencies construct new facilities, such as office buildings, wastewater collection and treatment facilities, schools, and central support buildings, the journey from opening bids to notice of completion is often exposed to disputes. These disputes range from the increased costs of delay and changed project conditions to payment disputes.
Our firm helps agencies avoid such disputes ahead of time. If we are contacted after a problem arises, we have valuable experience in resolving public works construction disputes. We assist with cost-efficient claims resolution, mediation and arbitration of contract fights, and full-scale construction defect or contract litigation.
Election Contests – California Election law is defined by many statutes affecting candidacies, qualifications for election, timing of election events, and challenges to an election outcome. The rules often vary from one type of election to another. The window of time for challenges to an election process is usually quite short, and the time to trial of election-related issues is brief, to ensure a fast resolution of nearly all challenges.
The experience of our firm in Election law and the various types of litigation necessary to enforce applicable rules allows us to respond quickly to achieve best results. We are prepared to act quickly to protect our clients’ interests in a fair and lawful election.
Special Districts – California law defines the authority and operations of many special districts, such as County Service Areas, Community Services Districts, Irrigation and Flood Control Districts, Levee Districts, Sanitation Agencies, and Fire Districts. The authority, the basic rules for operation, and the administration of these districts is commonly defined by statute and an evolving body of case law.
Our firm represents and advises many of these varied public agencies, often helping them navigate a unique legal challenge. We appreciate the need for expert legal support in a wide variety of special district transactions, while streamlining the cost of our services to protect the limited financial resources of our clients.
Mutual Water Companies – Mutual Water Companies are designed for residents and businesses in a particular area to plan and provide adequate local infrastructure. They have corporate obligations to their shareholders, and their operations can be guided by laws normally applicable only to public entities.
This hybrid character of mutual water companies calls for experienced legal support. Our firm’s experience ranges from advising these entities on operations to representing their interests in litigation about corporate structure and setting of rates for connections and monthly fees.