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Senate Bill 767 (Ted Lieu)

The Cynthia Volpe Act

Cynthia Volpe was a Code Enforcement Officer responsible for enforcement of laws relating to slum housing in Bakersfield, California. In the course of her duties, Volpe issued a citation to Robert Lezelle Courtney a millionaire landlord known for his slum property holdings. Volpe issued a citation declaring one of Courtney’s buildings uninhabitable.

After issuing the citation to Courtney, Volpe turned to get into her car when Courtney grabbed her hair, twisted her neck, slammed her against the car, and yanked her to the ground. “Government employees should be treated like street whores. You ruin people’s lives,” Courtney screamed at her as she lay flat on her back trying to ward off his kicks and punches. Volpe absorbed his blows for five minutes before the 230 pound Courtney left her on the pavement, her nose broken, her eyes swollen shut, and her face a bloody pulp.

Two months later, Courtney went to trial for assault with a deadly weapon and assault with great bodily injury. During the course of the trial Courtney took advantage of provisions in California law that enabled parties to litigation to find the home addresses of parties and witnesses by accessing DMV records. During jury deliberations, a sheriff’s dispatcher received a desperate 911 call from Cynthia Volpe. A man was in her house, she said, shooting a gun. “Please hurry,” she pleaded.

Before deputies arrived, Courtney fatally shot Cynthia's husband, Kenneth Volpe, and her mother, Betty Reed. As Cynthia herself tried to crawl under the bed to hide, Courtney shot her four times at point-blank range, killing her. Cynthia's children, Keith, fourteen, and Andrea, nine, had barricaded themselves in their bedrooms. Courtney either bypassed them by accident, was in a hurry to escape, or just did not give a damn.

Courtney led law enforcement on a vehicle pursuit during which shots were fired. He was eventually killed in a police shootout.

None of this would have happened if Courtney had not been able to obtain Volpe’s home address from DMV. Code Enforcement Officers are not among the enumerated persons whose DMV information is confidential. Ironically, if a Code Enforcement Officer is attached to their local police department, they do enjoy DMV confidentiality, but Code Enforcement Officers who are in their own free-standing department or who are attached to another city department are, like Cynthia Volpe, vulnerable.

The California Association of Code Enforcement Officers is sponsoring Senate Bill 767, the “Cynthia Volpe Act”, which would memorialize this brave public servant by providing for amendment of Vehicle Code Section 1808.4 to add Code Enforcement Officers to the list of occupations whose DMV home address information is protected.

SLOCEA Supports AB 1270

The San Luis Obispo County Employees' Association (SLOCEA) is supporting AB 1270 (Eggman), which is one of the bills CACEO is currently sponsoring in the Legislature. We encourage all our members to discuss this with your own local associations and see if you can help drum up even more support for DMV confidentiality for Code Enforcement Officers. Write to your legislators today!

Normally Legislative wrap-up reports don’t go out until after the last day for the Governor to sign or veto all bills, which is September 30. This year, however, the Governor has already taken action on CACEO’s two high priority bills, so I am sending out a Legislative wrap-up early.

First, on August 27, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 2314, by Assembly Member Carter, into law. AB 2314 assures that an extremely important enforcement tool for code enforcement remains on the books indefinitely. Under current law (Civil Code Section 2929.3), a legal owner of property is required to maintain vacant residential property purchased at a foreclosure sale or acquired by that owner through foreclosure under a mortgage or deed of trust. Current Law also authorizes a governmental entity to impose civil fines and penalties for failure to maintain that property of up to $1,000 per day for a violation. Current law also provides that the governmental entity that seeks to impose those fines and penalties to give notice of the claimed violation and an opportunity to correct the violation at least 14 days prior to imposing the fines and penalties, and to allow a hearing for contesting those fines and penalties. This has been an important enforcement tool for combating community blight occasioned by the surge in vacant residential foreclosure properties. The problem is that this law was slated to cease to be in effect (or, in legislative parlance “sunset”) on January 1, 2013.

Early this year, CACEO went to Assembly Member Skinner, who agreed to carry a bill to extend the sunset date on these code sections for an additional three years. Her bill was then taken over by Senator Pavley, who not only took over the concept, but also removed any sunset provisions at all, thus permitting this law to remain in effect indefinitely. CACEO worked with Senator Pavley, as we had worked with Assembly Member Skinner. We also worked with Assembly Member Carter, who was the author of Assembly Bill 2314. Assembly Bill 2314 turned out to be the vehicle that got to the Governor, and we weighed in with the Governor urging his signature. We were also joined in support of AB 2314 by the California Police Chiefs Association, the California Narcotic Officers Association, the Attorney General, CSAC, and the California Chamber of Commerce. The Governor’s action signing AB 2314 into law means that code enforcement officers will be able to continue to use the valuable enforcement tools of Civil Code Section 2929.3.

Second, on September 13, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 801, CACEO sponsored legislation authored by Assembly Member Sandre Swanson, into law. Under current law, Penal Code 830.7(j) permits local police chiefs to authorize “illegal dumping enforcement officers” to have needed enforcement tools to address illegal dumping, the term “illegal dumping control officer” is an archaic one; in fact, the phrase “illegal dumping enforcement officer” is only used in two cities. In the vast majority of jurisdictions, personnel performing illegal dumping control are now referred to as “code enforcement officers.” Since Penal Code 830.7(j) did not keep pace with this change of terminology, most California jurisdictions are unable to use the enforcement tools of Section 830.7(j) to combat illegal dumping.

AB 801 will address this problem by inserting the phrase “code enforcement officer” into Penal Code 830.7(j). In effect, AB assures that all jurisdictions can more efficiently address illegal dumping. Illegal dumping is a serious crime with significant quality of life, health and safety and public safety challenges for communities. AB 801 will give every jurisdiction the ability to use the full range of enforcement strategies

Under AB 801, Code Enforcement Officers can obtain the increased authorities of arrest and access to criminal history information upon execution of a memorandum of understanding with the sheriff or chief of police, and after they have met all training requirements. CACEO is now positioned to offer training to Code Enforcement Officers throughout the state whose duties include illegal dumping enforcement.

Assembly Bill 801 is sponsored by the California Association of Code Enforcement Officers. The bill will codify all code enforcement functions in Section 830.7(j) of the Penal Code and will assure that all code enforcement officers have the fullest range of authority to grapple with critical quality of life in the communities they serve. The bill unanimously passed the Assembly and now awaits action by the California Senate.

Last week, Senate Bill 1472, which is strongly supported by CACEO, was approved by the California Senate by a 36-0 vote. This bill lifts the sunset on Civil Code Section 2929.3. That is the section that provides for a $ 1000 per day fine for owners of vacant foreclosed property who refuse to keep that property maintained. This provision, which is slated to expire at the end of this year, will be indefinitely extended if SB 1472 is enacted into law. At this point, we are off to a promising start with our 36-0 vote. In addition to CACEO, SB 1472 is supported by the Attorney General, the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Narcotic Officers Association.

CACEO Opposes the State’s Redevelopment Proposal

Redevelopment agencies and funds throughout California have improved the communities they serve for several years. Redevelopment helps support a community’s growth, success and employment. Redevelopment funds are often used to clean up blighted areas and provide urban development. More than 98,000 affordable housing units have been constructed or rehabilitated due to redevelopment since 1993.

On January 10, Governor Jerry Brown released a proposed statewide budget that would eliminate redevelopment. Eliminating, borrowing, or cutting redevelopment funds will cause a loss in jobs, tax revenues and the financial growth of cities statewide.

  • Redevelopment activities and funds support about $304,000 jobs annually, including 170,600 construction jobs.
  • Redevelopment efforts contribute more than $40 billion to California’s economy through generation of goods and services.
  • More than $2 billion in local and state taxes are generated through redevelopment activities each year.

CACEO is asking for your help in defeating the Governor’s proposal. Please write to your local representatives, the media and Governor Brown expressing your opposition. View the sample letters and additional resources below.

CACEO is a supporter of Stop the State’s Redevelopment Proposal: Protect Local Jobs and the Economy.