Wednesday, February 12, 2020

AG Grants IAFF Local 1319's Application to Sue "Quo Warranto" to Enforce Appellate Ruling Invalidating Repeal of Interest Arbitration

On behalf of the International Association of Firefighters, Local 1319 (“Local 1319”), Kathleen Mastagni-Storm and Tashayla Billington received the Attorney General’s blessing to sue the City of Palo for violating the MMBA by repealing its Charter’s binding interest arbitration procedures for the police and fire unions.

On July 18, 2011, Palo Alto City Council adopted a resolution to place Measure D on the ballot to repeal binding interest arbitration for the police and fire unions. Local 1319 asserted its right to “meet and consult” under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (“MMBA”). The City refused. Local 1319 received favorable decisions from both the Public Employment Relations Board (“PERB”) and the Sixth District Court of Appeal, finding the City violated the MMBA. 

In City of Palo Alto v. Public Employment Relations Board (2016) 5 Cal.App.5th 1271, the Court of Appeal held binding interest arbitration is a mandatory subject of bargaining under Government Code section 3507.  As a result, the Court found the City violated the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act when it pushed through a local initiative to repeal binding interest arbitration while refusing to bargain with Palo Alto Firefighters, IAFF Local 1319.  The Court upheld PERB's factual determinations and rejected the City's arguments. (See "Court of Appeal: MMBA Requires Bargaining Over Binding Arbitration")
Despite the rulings against it, the City refused to reinstate binding interest arbitration. As a result, Local 1319 was forced to file an application to sue quo warranto to challenge the validity of the City’s charter provision.  Although the legal remedy of quo warranto—which requires the Attorney General’s approval to invoke—is most commonly used to contest a person’s entitlement to hold a public office, it may also be used to contest the validity of a city or county charter provision. The quo warranto application is typically filed after the completion of other, related litigation.

To authorize a quo warranto action, the Attorney General must find: (1) that quo warranto is the
appropriate remedy, (2) that the application raises a substantial issue of law or fact that warrants a judicial resolution, and (3) that allowing the proposed quo warranto action to proceed will serve the public interest.

On February 7, 2020, the Attorney General granted theapplication, finding Local 1319 raised a substantial question to be decided by a court – i.e. whether Measure D should be overturned based on the City’s violation of the MMBA.  The Attoreny General explaiend:

"Specifically, an employee organization of a charter city, with the Attorney General’s permission, may sue the city in quo warranto to challenge the validity of a charter amendment on the ground that the city unlawfully exercised its franchise by placing the amendment on the ballot without first complying with the MMBA’s consultation requirements.  As the Court of Appeal found here, “an action in quo warranto is the exclusive remedy to challenge the ballot initiative to repeal article V of the city charter” on the ground that the City did not consult in good faith with Local 1319 before placing  Measure D on the ballot."

The opinion also agreed that, “as Local 1319 point[ed] out, ‘the public has an interest in ensuring charter amendments are validly enacted in accordance with the law and securing stable employer-employee relations.’” This confirms statutes, like the MMBA, serve an important public interest to improve labor relationships within public agencies. 

Through this litigation, Local 1319 has vindicated important MMBA rights precluding the unilateral modification of impasse proceedures, even if enacted by ballot measure, and authorizing quo warranto proceedings to invaldiate such charter amendments.