These links provide information and resources about California’s local governments. They can be useful to grand juries when investigating local government operations, but may also be of interest to anyone wanting to learn more about counties, cities, districts and other local government entities and the laws and regulations governing them. Go to our Other Useful Links page to access California law and regulations, and to find links to various state government sites, the sites of organizations that support good government, and local libraries and law libraries.
County and City Ordinances and Charters
Counties and cities can adopt local laws, called “ordinances,” to regulate certain activities of its residents (such as business licensing and parking regulation) or the internal operations of the entity itself. In addition, about a quarter of California’s counties and cities have a voter-adopted charter, which allows the entity to deviate from the state’s “general law” with regard to its elections procedures, board member salaries, prevailing wages, and other internal matters.
There are thousands of special districts within California, providing a variety of services — from airports to waste management — to their communities. They are a frequent subject of grand jury reports.
List of Special Districts
California Special Districts Association
California Special Districts Associations’s Mapping Project, which shows the independent special districts located in each county
What’s So Special About Special Districts? (a publication by the California Senate; a citizen’s guide to special districts in California)
Special Districts: Improving Oversight and Transparency (a publication by the Little Hoover Commission)
Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO)
Every county has a LAFCO, which coordinates city and special district formation, boundary changes, and dissolution. LAFCO produces spheres of influence for these entities, based on municipal service reviews, which are updated every five years or so; these reports are public records. Grand Juries may investigate their local LAFCO, or simply use it as a resource.
K-12 School Districts
The California School Directory on the California Department of Education website contains information about all California public schools, private schools, nonpublic nonsectarian schools, school districts, and county offices of education. The search feature allows users to search for educational agencies in California by county, district, county-district-school (CDS) code, city, zip code, type, or status.
Joint Powers Agreements and Agencies
State law allows two or more public entities to jointly exercise any power that is common to all of them. The entities can do this under an operating contract (a joint powers agreement) or by forming an independent agency (a joint powers agency or authority – referred to as a “JPA”). There are hundreds of JPAs in the state, conducting such activities as purchasing insurance, obtaining financing for infrastructure, or operating multi-county transit services. JPAs and operating agreements are within the grand jury’s jurisdiction.
Transparency and Ethics
All local governments in California are subject to the state’s transparency and ethics laws. The following publications provide a thorough, but readable, review of each of the major laws. The websites listed here provide a variety of publications related to good government and the ethics test for local officials.
Open & Public V: A Guide to the Ralph M. Brown Act (League of California Cities)
The People’s Business – A Guide to the California Public Records Act (League of California Cities)
Fair Political Practices Commission Online Ethics Training for Local Officials (that grand jurors can take)
The Institute for Local Government (government structure, functions, financing and ethics)
Californians Aware (government transparency)
Detention Facility Inspections
Grand juries routinely take part in guided site visits (tours) of detention facilities within their counties as part of an inquiry or investigation. The regulations contained in Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations provide the state’s standards for local adult correctional facilities, such as county or city jails, and for juvenile facilities, such as juvenile halls. These facilities are inspected each year by the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC), which provides assistance to grand juries through its field agents. They can provide grand juries with copies of the biennial reports BSCC issues on local detention facilities within the county. Additional materials related to inquiring into, investigating, and reporting on jails and prisons can be found on our Sample Documents page.
Board of State and Community Corrections
Title 15: Provisions related to adult detention facilities
Title 15: Provisions related to juvenile detention facilities
Detention Facilities Inspection Video
Jail Inspection Handbook: available for download on the page associated with the Detention Facilities Inspections Video link above.
Investigating and Reporting on Jails and Prisons
Local Detention Facilities List (by county)