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KUGLER v. YOCUM and the firefighters of Alhambra.

Alhambra — Kammer Ballet Gavrilov, Berlin (1919) / Ludwig Kainer (German, 1885–1967) / Susanlenox

This case in a nutshell

This case revolves around an ordinance which decrees that the salaries of certain city employees shall be no less than the average of those of an adjoining city and those of an adjoining county.

Defendant’s main contention rested upon the proposition that the enactment of the ordinance by either the council or the electorate would constitute an unlawful delegation of legislative power.

The court found that there is no unlawful delegation of legislative power where the power to legislate has been expressed and exerted in the enactment of the policy of such parity. Future adjustment in salaries pursuant to that formula is no more than the automatic execution of that policy and that process is protected from any abusive or arbitrary consequences by its own inherent safeguards. [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 373, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]

In dealing with the wage rates of its employees, a city council acts in its ‘legislative‘ rather than its ‘administrative‘ capacity, and thus, under sections 81 and 176 of the Alhambra City Charter, empowering the council to establish the salary amounts of its fire department members and the electors to adopt any ordinance which the council might enact, the salaries of the city firemen are within the electorate’s initiative power.

  • The power to change laws is necessarily legislative in character, and delegation of the legislative powers of a city is precluded by the same doctrine that precludes *372 delegation by the Legislature of its exclusive power to change state law; but only in the event of a total abdication of that power, through failure either to render basic policy decisions or to assure that they are implemented as made, will the Supreme Court intrude on legislative enactments for being an ‘unlawful delegation,‘ and then only to preserve the representative character of the process of reaching legislative decision. [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 371–72, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]
  • A legislative body must itself effectively resolve the truly fundamental issues of its legislation. It cannot escape responsibility by explicitly delegating that function to others or by failing to establish an effective mechanism to insure the proper implementation of its policy decisions, but established legislation is not rendered invalid, as an unlawful delegation, by the mere fact that a third party, whether private or governmental, performs some role in its application or implementation [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 372, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]
  • The requirement for ‘standards‘ is but one method for the effective implementation of a legislative policy decision; the requirement possesses no sacrosanct quality in itself so long as its purpose may otherwise be assured, and is obviated by inherent safeguards in the statute or ordinance which protect against arbitrary exploitation thereof. [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 372, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]

NOTE: This case has been negatively referenced by multiple decisions in other litigation or proceedings including:

  • Gayle v. Hamm 101 Cal.Rptr. 628, Cal.App. 2 Dist.
  • San Francisco Fire Fighters Local 798, Intern. Ass’n of Fire Fighters, AFL-CIO v. City & County of San Francisco 129 Cal.Rptr. 39, Cal.App. 1 Dist.
  • Bagley v. City of Manhattan Beach [Most Negative] 132 Cal.Rptr. 668, Cal.
  • Bock v. City Council 167 Cal.Rptr. 43, Cal.App. 2 Dist.
  • City and County of San Francisco v. Patterson 248 Cal.Rptr. 290, Cal.App. 1 Dist.
  • Totten v. Board of Supervisors 43 Cal.Rptr.3d 244, Cal.App. 2 Dist.
  • AB Cellular LA, LLC v. City of Los Angeles 59 Cal.Rptr.3d 295, Cal.App. 2 Dist.
  • Sturgeon v. County of Los Angeles 84 Cal.Rptr.3d 242, Cal.App. 4 Dist.
  • Coleman v. City and County of San Francisco 2009 WL 3070871, Cal.App. 1 Dist.
  • TakeCare Insurance Company, Inc. v. Birn 2021 WL 2327051, D.Guam
Program from Alhambra Theater / Repository: California Historical Society / California Historical Society

In the instant case, the adoption of the proposed ordinance, either through promulgation by the Alhambra City Council or by initiative, will constitute the legislative body’s resolution of the ‘fundamental issue.‘ Once the legislative body has determined the issue of policy, i.e., that the Alhambra wages for firemen should be on a parity with Los Angeles, that body has resolved the ‘fundamental issue‘; the subsequent filling in of the facts in application and execution of the policy does not constitute legislative delegation. Thus the decision on the legislative policy has not been delegated; the implementation of the policy by reference to Los Angeles salaries is not the delegation of it.

Whatever the motivation for the legislative policy, Alhambra will have rendered and pronounced it. The policy may be based upon the recognition that Alhambra could not recruit firemen at lesser rates than those paid in the adjoining County and City of Los Angeles. The policy may rest upon the fact that Los Angeles possesses a superior ability to canvass comparable wages for firemen and perform the research necessary to reach a fair salary decision. In any event, Alhambra will have reached the fundamental decision: the policy of parity with Los Angeles

Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 377, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)

Factual background

  • Plaintiffs, residents of the City of Alhambra, brought a mandate to compel defendants, as members of the city council of that city, either to adopt a proposed initiative ordinance or to call a special citywide election to vote upon it. Although plaintiffs had obtained the required number of signatures to secure the election, the city council refused to hold it; the council likewise rejected the proposed ordinance. [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 373, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]
  • The proposed ordinance read, in relevant part, as follows: ‘Except as otherwise provided for herein the monthly salaries of the members of the Fire Department in each classification shall not be less than an amount computed as follows: Beginning January 1, 1965, and the first day of each succeeding year thereafter, the City Manager of the City of Alhambra shall determine the then existing monthly salaries of each classification of like or comparable grades or ranks of the Fire Departments of the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles. The average of the salaries for the comparable grades or ranks of the members of the Fire Departments of the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles shall be the minimum salaries payable by the City of Alhambra to the members of its Fire Department of the same or comparable *374 grades or ranks.‘ Thus the proposed ordinance provides that in setting the salaries of the firemen, the council could not fix them at an amount less than the average of the salaries received by the firemen of the City of Los Angeles and the salaries received by the firemen of the County of Los Angeles. [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 373–74, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]

Procedural background

  • After the council’s refusal to submit the ordinance to the electorate plaintiffs brought action in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County to compel defendants to do so. That court found that plaintiffs had followed the proper procedure,1 that the proposed ordinance was a proper subject for the exercise of the initiative power of the Alhambra electors, and that, if enacted, the ordinance would not improperly delegate the council’s legislative power. Accordingly, the court issued a peremptory writ of mandate compelling the defendants to call a special election for consideration of the ordinance. Defendants have appealed from this judgment. [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 374, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]
  • The trial court correctly concluded that the subject matter of the proposed ordinance, that is the salaries of city firemen, falls within the electorate’s initiative power. The city charter provides that the ‘Council … shall have the power to … establish … the amount of [the fire division’s] … salaries‘ (§ 81) and that the ‘electors … shall have the right to … adopt … any ordinance which the council might enact‘ (§ 176). Since in dealing with wage rates, the city council acts in its ‘legislative‘ rather than its ‘administrative‘ capacity (Spencer v. City of Alhambra (1941) 44 Cal.App.2d 75, 77 [111 P.2d 910]; Collins v. City & County of San Francisco (1952) 112 Cal.App.2d 719, 730 [247 P.2d 362]; City & County of San Francisco v. Boyd (1943) 22 Cal.2d 685 [140 P.2d 666]), wage rates are a proper subject for adoption as an ordinance by a city council and, accordingly, pursuant to section 176, for enactment by an initiative [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 374, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]

Findings

  • “At the outset, we note that the doctrine prohibiting delegation of legislative power, although much criticized as applied (see, e.g., Witkin, Summary of Cal. Law (7th ed. 1960) p. 1834; 1 Davis, Administrative Law Treatise (1958) § 2.01), is well established in California. ‘The power … to change a law of the state is necessarily legislative in character, and is vested exclusively in the legislature and cannot be delegated by it ….‘ (Dougherty v. Austin (1892) 94 Cal. 601, 606–607 [28 P. 834, 29 P. 1092, 16 L.R.A. 161]; see also People v. Johnson (1892) 95 Cal. 471, 475 [31 P. 611]; People v. Wheeler (1902) 136 Cal. 652, 655 [69 P. 435]; Coulter v. Pool (1921) 187 Cal. 181, 190 [201 P. 120]; Duskin v. State Board of Dry Cleaners (1962) 58 Cal.2d 155, 161–162 [23 Cal.Rptr. 404, 373 P.2d 468].) Moreover, the same doctrine precludes delegation of the legislative powers of a city (City of Redwood City v. Moore (1965) 231 Cal.App.2d 563, 576 [42 Cal.Rptr. 72], and cases cited therein; see generally 2 McQuillin, The Law of Municipal Corporations (3d ed. 1966) § 10.39, p. 843, and cases cited at fn. 63).” [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 375, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]
  • Several equally well established principles, however, serve to limit the scope of the doctrine proscribing delegations of legislative power. For example, legislative power may properly *376 be delegated if channeled by a sufficient standard. ‘It is well settled that the legislature may commit to an administrative officer the power to determine whether the facts of a particular case bring it within a rule or standard previously established by the legislature ….‘ (Dominguez Land Corp. v. Daugherty (1925) 196 Cal. 468, 484 [238 P. 703]; see also State Board of Dry Cleaners v. Thrift-D-Lux Cleaners, Inc. (1953) 40 Cal.2d 436, 448 [254 P.2d 29]; Case Note (1959) 6 U.C.L.A.L.Rev. 312 and cases cited therein.)” [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 375–76, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]
  • A related doctrine holds: ‘The essentials of the legislative function are the determination and formulation of the legislative policy. Generally speaking, attainment of the ends, including how and by what means they are to be achieved, may constitutionally be left in the hands of others. The Legislature may, after declaring a policy and fixing a primary standard, confer upon executive or administrative officers the ‘power to fill up the details’ by prescribing administrative rules and regulations to promote the purposes of the legislation and to carry it into effect ….‘ (First Industrial Loan Co. v. Daugherty (1945) 26 Cal.2d 545, 549 [159 P.2d 921].) Similarly, the cases establish that ‘[w]hile the legislative body cannot delegate its power to make a law, it can make a law to delegate a power to determine some fact or state of things upon which the law makes or intends to make its own action depend.‘ (Wheeler v. Gregg (1949) 90 Cal.App.2d 348, 363 [203 P.2d 37].)” [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 376, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]
  • “We have said that the purpose of the doctrine that legislative power cannot be delegated is to assure that ‘truly fundamental issues [will] be resolved by the Legislature‘ and that a ‘grant of authority [is] … accompanied by safeguards adequate to prevent its abuse.‘ (Wilke & Holzheiser, Inc. v. Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (1966) 65 Cal.2d 349, 369 [55 Cal.Rptr. 23, 420 P.2d 735]; see also Jaffe, An Essay on Delegation of Legislative Power (1947) 47 Colum.L.Rev. 359, 561; 1 Davis, Administrative Law Treatise, supra, § 2.15; Gaylord v. City of Pasadena (1917) 175 Cal. 433, 437 [166 P. 348]; Warren v. Marion County (1960) 222 Ore. 307, 313–315 [353 P.2d 257]; Lien v. City of Ketchikan (Alaska 1963) 383 P.2d 721, 723–724; Group Health Ins. v. Howell (1963) 40 N.J. 436, 445, 447 [193 A.2d 103]; Heath v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore (1946) 187 Md. 296, 303 [49 A.2d 799] (dictum).) (4a) This doctrine rests upon the premise that the legislative body must itself effectively resolve the truly fundamental issues. It cannot escape responsibility by explicitly delegating that function to others or by failing to *377 establish an effective mechanism to assure the proper implementation of its policy decisions.” [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 376–77, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]
  • “Alhambra’s formula for salary adjustments based upon the Los Angeles rates does not differ from other formulae, recognized as lawful, that tie adjustments in compensation for employees into future events which do not lie within the power or control of the legislative body. The elemental illustration of such a formula is that which relates a wage adjustment to future dates or time periods for periodic adjustments. Moreover, adjustment may be linked to the cost of living, to average earnings or prevailing wages of a comparable occupation, to prevailing wages or average earnings generally, or to any number of such desiderata. The fact that the formula operates upon eventualities which may lie outside the control of the legislative body and within the control of other persons does not convert the legislative action into an unlawful delegation.” [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 377, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]
  • “In upholding the prevailing wage statutes this court has recognized that a statute, which set minimum wages for contractors *378 performing public work as those ‘prevailing‘ in the locality, did not ‘delegate‘ legislative power. In Metropolitan Water Dist. v. Whitsett (1932) 215 Cal. 400 [10 P.2d 751], this court rejected a variety of attacks on the statutory provision that ‘Not less than the general prevailing rate of per diem wages for work of a similar character in the locality in which the work is performed … shall be paid all laborers, workmen and mechanics employed by or on behalf of the state of California.‘ (P. 404.) Petitioner contended ‘(1) that said act is void for uncertainty … and (3) that the act makes an invalid delegation of legislative power.‘ (P. 406.) The court points out that ‘The petitioner concedes that the object to be accomplished may be directed by the legislature to be carried into effect by subordinate officers and bodies having better opportunities for accomplishing the object, or doing the thing understandingly, and that the legislature may delegate the power to determine some fact or state of things upon which the law makes, or intends to make, its own action depend ….‘ (P. 418.) Holding that the statute has not ‘delegated to the board power to make law‘ (p. 419), the court stated: ‘Unless the power thus granted to fix the salary or wages of its own employees is an unlawful delegation of power to the board, and we do not intimate that it is, or that it would be conceded by the petitioner to be unlawful, the power granted by the statute under attack to fix a minimum wage for the employees of contractors with the district would not be an unlawful delegation.‘ (P. 419.)” [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 377–78, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]
  • “Although the prevailing wage statute, like the questioned ordinance, entails the alleged dual dangers which defendants contemplate here: that the legislative body will neither know in advance nor control the level of the ‘general prevailing rate of per diem wages,‘ this court did not strike down the statute on that ground but sustained it. The Whitsett decision *379 has an even deeper significance in the present matter because in substance it applies to the kind of enactment we ponder here. The instant ordinance in essence adopts the ‘prevailing‘ rate for firemen in the larger locality which Alhambra adjoins. Although such a rate is fixed by a governmental rather than a private agency, that factor is an inevitable one, since firemen are employed by public and not private entities, and it surely cannot serve to render one enactment an unlawful delegation of legislative power and the other not. Hence Whitsett, in substance, disposes of the present issue.” [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 378–79, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]
  • “Decisions in other states likewise sustain the power of the legislative body to base compensation for the involved employees upon comparable prevailing wages. In Baughn v. Gorrell & Riley (1949) 311 Ky. 537 [224 S.W.2d 436], for example, a statute requiring the board of education to ascertain the prevailing rates of wages and pay not less than this rate on public works projects was attacked as an unlawful delegation of legislative power to those who, cumulatively, ‘set‘ the prevailing rate. In rejecting this contention, the court said: ‘In the eyes of the Legislature, wages paid under agreements between labor organizations and employers constitute a fair criteria [sic] of reasonable compensation for different types of work. It will be noted these wages are agreed upon as the result of bargaining between labor on one side and the employer on the other … [T]he competitive market will tend to establish a fair wage.‘ (311 Ky. at p. 541.) The court concluded that ‘the Legislature has not delegated the exercise of its legislative function to private persons or interests.‘ (311 Ky. at p. 542.)” [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 379, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]
  • “Nor does the fact that a third party, whether private or governmental, performs some role in the application and *380 implementation of an established legislative scheme render the legislation invalid as an unlawful delegation. Thus, in Brock v. Superior Court (1937) 9 Cal.2d 291, [71 P.2d 209, 114 A.L.R. 127], a statute precluding the California Director of Agriculture from entering into a marketing agreement without the assent of a percentage of persons engaged in the industry was attacked as an unlawful delegation to those private persons. In rejecting this contention, this coutr said: ‘a statute is not invalid merely because it provides for consent of interested persons to the contemplated regulation.‘ (9 Cal.2d at p. 299.)” [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 379–80, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]
  • “Furthermore, we find here, as we said in Wilke & Holzheiser, *381 Inc. v. Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, supra, 65 Cal.2d 349, 369, that the ‘grant of authority [is] … accompanied by safeguards adequate to prevent its abuse.‘ (6) As Professor Davis has stated, ‘The need is usually not for standards but for safeguards. … [T]he most perceptive courts are motivated much more by the degree of protection against arbitrariness than by the doctrine about standards ….‘ (1 Davis, Administrative Law Treatise, supra, § 2.15.) The requirement for ‘standards‘ is but one method for the effective implementation of the legislative policy decision; the requirement possesses no sacrosanct quality in itself so long as its purpose may otherwise be assured.”[Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 380–81, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]
  • The proposed Alhambra ordinance contains built-in and automatic protections that serve as safeguards against exploitive consequences from the operation of the proposed ordinance. Los Angeles is no more anxious to pay its firemen exorbitant compensation than is Alhambra. Los Angeles as an employer will be motivated to avoid the incurrence of an excessive wage scale; the interplay of competitive economic forces and bargaining power will tend to settle the wages at a realistic level. As we noted in an analogous area involving the establishment of prices: ‘the Legislature could reasonably assume that competition … coupled with … bargaining power … would provide a safeguard against excessive prices. In all probability, that safeguard is at least as effective as any which the Legislature could be expected to provide by promulgating explicit standards ….‘ (Wilke & Holzheiser, Inc. v. Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, supra, 65 Cal.2d 349, 367–368.)” [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 382, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]
  • “In sum, the ordinance in question, if enacted, would not unlawfully delegate legislative power. As long ago as 1917 this court recognized that legislative bodies have neither the resources nor the expertise to deal adequately with every minor question potentially within their jurisdiction. ‘Even a casual observer of governmental growth and development must have observed the ever-increasing multiplicity and complexity of administrative affairs — national, state, and municipal-and even the occasional reader of the law must have perceived that from necessity, if for no better grounded reason, it has become increasingly imperative that many quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial functions, which in smaller communities and under more primitive conditions were performed directly by the legislative or judicial branches of the government, are intrusted to departments, boards, commissions, and agents. No sound objection can longer be successfully advanced to this growing method of transacting public business. These things must be done in this way or they cannot be done *384 at all ….‘ (Gaylord v. City of Pasadena, supra, 175 Cal. 433, 436.)” [Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 383–84, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)]

Resources

Citation

AROL J. KUGLER et al., Plaintiffs and Respondents, v. NORMA YOCUM et al., Defendants and Appellants.

  • Kugler v. Yocum, 69 Cal. 2d 371, 445 P.2d 303 (1968)

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