FPPC Expands SB1439 to Apply to Elected City Attorneys and All Other Local Elected Officials

The FPPC has officially decided that SB 1439, the new law which requires city councilmembers, county supervisors and other local elected officials to recuse themselves from proceedings involving a land use applicant or prospective government contractor who has contributed over $250 to their campaigns, will also apply to elected city attorneys. Although the Sutton Law Firm submitted a letter to the FPPC arguing that SB 1439 should not apply to city attorneys because they do not render final decisions in land use proceedings but instead merely give legal advice to planning commissions, city councils and boards of supervisors, the FPPC rejected our argument based on the broad definition of “officer” in the statute. 

Any real estate entity which is pursuing a local land use entitlement in a city which elects its city attorney must therefore monitor political contributions from its principals, employees and outside consultants. The new interpretation could also impact cities which do not elect their city attorneys if the appointed city attorney decides to run for city council.  

The FPPC’s decision – which we believe goes far beyond the legislative intent of the new law – actually means that the $250 limit and disqualification threshold will apply to contributions to all local elected officials – not just city attorneys, city councils and boards of supervisors – but also county sheriffs, district attorneys, local treasurers, local controllers, etc. This broad reading of the law effectively transforms SB 1439 into a statewide contractor ban applicable to all local elected and appointed officials across the state.

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Feel free to contact a Sutton Law Firm attorney or Political Compliance Specialist if you have any questions regarding this broad interpretation, or any other questions about SB 1439.


About the Sutton Law Firm

The Sutton Law Firm specializes in political and election law, representing businesses, individuals, candidates, ballot measures, PACs and nonprofit organizations involved in the political and legislative processes on the state, local and national levels. The firm offers its clients a full range of legal, reporting and litigation services.