Attorney General Opines That Member Of Board Of Supervisors May Not Concurrently Serve As General Manager For District Because They Are Incompatible Offices

CATEGORY: Public Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Public Education
DATE: Jun 29, 2022

In an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General, the question presented was whether a member of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors may concurrently serve as general manager for the Truckee Tahoe Airport District.  The Truckee Tahoe Airport District (District) was formed in 1958 under the California Airport District Act. An elected Board of Directors governs the District and appoints its general manager.  The District receives revenue primarily from three sources: (1) property taxes collected within the District’s boundaries; (2) fees charged for services, including leasing and rental revenue; and (3) grant funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Truckee Tahoe Airport is a general aviation airport that supports a variety of aircraft for recreation, instruction, transportation, and many other public and commercial purposes.  Among other functions, the airport supports charter operations and aircraft maintenance services, charges landing fees, rents hangar and aircraft parking spaces, and sells aviation fuel.  The southern portion of the Truckee Tahoe Airport District is located in Placer County and the northern portion is located in Nevada County. Nevada County is governed by a five-member board of supervisors that serves as the legislative and executive body of county government.

The Attorney General concluded that a member of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors may not concurrently serve as general manager for the Truckee Airport District because the two public offices are incompatible with one another.  In the opinion, the Attorney General analyzed the rule against holding incompatible offices arose from the longstanding public policy demanding that public officers discharge their duties with undivided loyalty.  The California legislature codified the common law prohibition on incompatible offices by enacting Government Code Section 1099, which prohibits a person from simultaneously holding two public offices that are incompatible.

The Attorney General used a four-part test to determine whether the position of an airport district general manager is a public officer.  For purposes of the incompatible offices doctrine, a public office is “(1) a position in government, (2) which is created or authorized by the Constitution or by law, (3) the tenure of which is continuing and permanent, not occasional or temporary, (4) in which the incumbent performs a public function for the public benefit and exercises some of the sovereign powers of the state.”  The Attorney General concluded that the office of general manager of an airport district is a public office because it is a government position created by statute, its tenure is continuous, and its incumbent exercises public powers for the public benefit.  The Attorney General also found the two offices to be incompatible in part because the Truckee Tahoe Airport District is located partially within Nevada County.  Because the District and Nevada County have territory in common, decisions made by one entity can affect the other, especially in cases where both agencies operate within the same sphere of influence.

The Attorney General reasoned that when two agencies operate in the same sphere, opportunities can arise for conflicted loyalties in a person who represents both.  For example, direct competition could arise between Truckee Tahoe Airport and Nevada County Airport if one adjusted its rent, fuel prices, or landing fees to the detriment of the other.  Because of the potential conflicts under Government Code Section 1099, the Attorney General concluded that the two offices are incompatible and that one person may not simultaneously hold both.

Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. No. 22-403 (June 17, 2022).

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