Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Court Holds FFBOR Applies to Charter Cities

In International Association of Firefighters, Local 230 v. City of San Jose (May 24, 2011), the Court of Appeal ruled the Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act (FFBOR) applies to charter cities, even if it conflicts with a city’s charter.

After FFBOR was enacted in 2008, Local 230 requested the City meet and confer over how it would be implemented. However, the City refused, claiming it was exempt from FFBOR because it is a charter city. The City claimed the “home rule” provisions of the California Constitution meant the city charter trumped conflicting state laws, including FFBOR.

The California Constitution gives charter cities special powers to “make and enforce all ordinances and regulations in respect to municipal affairs, subject only to restrictions and limitations provided in their several charters…” (Cal. Const. art. XI, § 5.) Charter cities have claimed this provision means they do not have to follow the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act (POBR). Courts, however, have rejected these claims. The Court of Appeal looked to those cases to decide whether charter cities have to comply with FFBOR.

In Baggett v. Gates (1982) 32 Cal.3d 128, the California Supreme Court decided the “home rule” provision of the state Constitution applies to issues that are “strictly municipal affairs,” but not “matters of statewide concern.” The Court of Appeal used the same analysis in Baggett and applied it to FFBOR. The Court noted stable labor relations with public employers, including firefighters, are a matter of statewide concern. It also gave “great weight” to the Legislature’s finding FFBOR addresses a matter of statewide concern.