Ruthann G. Ziegler
Ruthann Ziegler is a founding Principal of Meyers Nave’s Sacramento office and has more than 35 years of experience in public law, representing municipalities and special districts throughout California. She serves as Chair of the firm’s statewide California Public Records Act Practice Group. Ruthann also leads Meyers Nave’s new Cannabis Law Practice Group serving the needs of public entities. She has served on the League of California Cities’ Cannabis Regulatory Committee since being selected to the group when it was formed in 2011.
Ruthann represents clients in all matters affecting local governance and decision-making, from day-to-day operations to long-term policy issues. She advises clients on issues such as rate setting, public contracts and bidding, land use, and environmental issues, as well as the Brown Act, Political Reform Act, and Public Records Act. Her public records expertise was recently covered in news reports of a high-profile Public Records Act case for which the court appointed her as Special Master. The case required the review of 9,580 pages of emails to advise on those that should be disclosed as public records. All parties agreed to follow her findings. The novel matter involved a State University producing the public records of School District officials who also worked at the State University and sent or received School District-related messages on their State University email accounts.
Ruthann currently serves as city attorney and general counsel for several cities and special districts. She has served as City Attorney of Citrus Heights since its incorporation in 1997 and has worked with several municipal incorporation committees. Her other clients have included public utility districts, community services districts, healthcare districts, fire districts, water districts and joint powers agencies. As General Counsel and Special Counsel to numerous special districts, Ruthann has provided comprehensive advice on issues ranging from formation and governance to assessments, public records, conflicts of interest, and ethics compliance.
Ruthann frequently speaks before attorneys, associations of special districts, municipal law organizations and other groups. Topics on which she presents include the Brown Act, AB 1234, the California Public Records Act, conflicts of interest/FPPC Form 700, public contracting and bidding, land use issues, and medical marijuana regulation. Ruthann’s specialty expertise regarding public records was featured in two presentations she provided in the emerging field of law enforcement’s use of surveillance and data collection technologies, such as police body cameras, license plate readers, global positioning systems and stingray phone trackers.
Ruthann was recently quoted in numerous publications, including the Daily Journal and CourtHouse News, regarding the California Supreme Court’s decision in a landmark case concerning the Public Records Act (City of San Jose v. Superior Court (Smith) (March 2, 2017)). She also published articles about the case in the California Special Districts Association’s weekly e-newsletter and monthly magazine, and provided a related webinar sponsored by CSDA. The issue concerned whether e-mails and text messages, sent or received on private electronic devices or personal accounts used by public officials and their staffs, were subject to production under the CPRA. The Court held that such communications, if they relate to the conduct of public business, are subject to the CPRA and may be public records subject to disclosure.
- Placer County Local Agency Formation Commission v. Nevada County Local Agency Formation Commission, et al., 135 Cal.App.4th 793, 37 Cal.Rptr.3d 729 (2006)
- County of San Bernardino v. City of San Bernardino et al., 15 Cal.4th 909, 64 Cal.Rptr.2d 814 (1997)
California Public Records Act
As Chair of the firm’s California Public Records Act Practice Group, Ruthann is recognized as a “go-to” attorney for helping public agencies understand the law’s requirements, exemptions and penalties; establish plans and protocols for efficient and cost-effective compliance; and develop strong defenses in the event of a courtroom challenge.
Ruthann has represented dozens of citizens’ groups, special districts and cities in proceedings involving LAFCOs in various counties throughout California. Issues have concerned revenue neutrality, tax sharing agreements, incorporations, annexations, reorganizations, consolidations and mergers.
Construction Disputes and Resolution
When the developer walked away from a multi-million dollar redevelopment project, Ruthann negotiated with the competing interests of the bank, which held a promissory note on the underlying real property, and with the construction contractor and its many subcontractors, owed millions on the unfinished project. The end result was the Redevelopment Agency owning the project free and clear from the bank, with the project completed and now fully occupied by residential and commercial development.
Rate Setting and Financing Alternatives
California laws have become increasingly complex as to rate setting, noticing, Proposition 218 voting requirements, fees, assessments and taxes. Ruthann helps clients analyze the various options available and implement financial options in a legally defensible and practical manner. Most recently, she has worked with Joint Powers agencies to secure funding for and implementation of regional transportation improvement projects.
Development Agreements, Environmental Analyses, Power and Land Use Issues
Ruthann has worked with a variety of clients on a broad spectrum of land use issues, including negotiating development agreements, analyzing land use entitlements, and coordinating the securing of adequate financing to offset the impacts from new development. For example, in her role as General Counsel to the Pittsburg Power Company, Ruthann was involved in the development of the TransBay Cable project. This project involved coordination with a private developer for financing, environmental review, construction, and related agreements (Purchase and Sale Agreement, Project Administration Agreement, etc.) of a 53-mile transmission cable, under the San Francisco Bay, between the City of Pittsburg and the City and County of San Francisco.
Ruthann also advised the City of Citrus Heights on the sale of surplus land to a nonprofit healthcare corporation to subsidize funding for a new city hall. The plan provided for the city to lease land to a conduit issuing authority in order to contract with a developer to build a new medical office building, utilizing tax-exempt bond proceeds. The completed building would then be leased to the healthcare corporation through a 15-year lease agreement. The lease proceeds would enable the City to build its new city hall on another site. At the end of the lease term, the healthcare corporation would exercise an option to purchase the building, terminating the financing transaction. The $53.2 million project to relocate the city hall and construct a medical office building on the current civic center site was approved by city council members in 2015. The new $ 22 million city hall has been completed, and construction on the $30 million medical building began in 2017 and is expected to open in Spring 2019.
Ruthann was retained by the then-newly incorporated City of Citrus Heights as its first City Attorney, and continues to represent Citrus Heights today. Upon incorporation, she worked with the new council members, staff and consultants on the multitude of issues facing newly incorporated cities, including revenue neutrality and implementing service agreements to assure the City’s residents of high quality, economical services.
First Amendment Issues
One of the first challenges faced by the newly incorporated City of Citrus Heights was litigation filed by owners of existing and proposed adult businesses within the City. Ruthann and the City successfully negotiated settlement, resulting in those non-compliant businesses no longer operating within the City.
Emergency Medical Services
Ruthann successfully defended the City of Sacramento, emergency ambulance service providers, and the 911 Sacramento area regional communications center in federal court litigation challenging the right of those defendants to provide emergency ambulance transport. The lawsuit also resulted in plaintiffs paying damages to the City of Sacramento in the amount of $850,000.
Honors and Awards
- AV rated, Martindale-Hubbell
- Northern California Super Lawyers, Super Lawyers Magazine, 2016-2018
- “Top Lawyers,” State, Local & Municipal law category, Sacramento Magazine (2015, 2018)
- “Register of Top Rated Lawyers: Women Leaders in the Law,” Martindale-Hubbell, 2013
- “Top 25 Municipal Lawyers in California, Daily Journal, 2011
- “Top 25 Corporate and Transactional Women Lawyers in California,” Daily Journal, 2011
Presentations and Publications
- Q&A Interview, “Cannabis Conundrums: Industry Grapples with Banking, Employee Rights, State Regulations,” North Bay Business Journal, September 24, 2018
- Practice Profile, “Cannabis Conundrum: Now That Recreational Pot is Legal, Public Law Attorneys Like Ruthann Ziegler Are Helping Cities Cut Through the Haze,” Northern California Super Lawyers, August 2018
- Author, “California Public Records Act: Who Pays Attorney Fees and When in 'Reverse' Actions?”, Daily Journal, May 7, 2018
- Quoted, “Lack of Banking Solutions Leaves Cannabis Businesses High and Dry,” Daily Journal, March 12, 2018
- Quoted, “Lawyers for Pot Businesses See a Hazy Landscape,” Daily Journal, February 26, 2018
- Q&A Interview, “Experts Roundtable II: The Business of Cannabis,” Sacramento Business Journal, February 16, 2018
- Presenter, "CPRA in a Post-City of San Jose (Smith) World," County Counsels' Association of California Sheriffs' Workgroup Spring Study Section Meeting, 2018
- Q&A Interview, "Experts Roundtable I: The Business of Cannabis," Sacramento Business Journal, October 20, 2017
- Presenter, “Cannabis and the City: Navigating the Regulatory Environment and Community Expectations,” Bay Area Planning Directors Association Fall General Membership Meeting, 2017
- Author, “California's New Cannabis Regulatory System: What Everyone Needs to Know,” Meyers Nave Client Alert, 2017
- Quoted, “Why Some California Counties Are Saying No to Commercial Cannabis,” The Recorder, July 13, 2017
- Author, "New Law Subjects Public Agencies to Penalties Relating to Prevailing Wage Projects," Meyers Nave Client Alert, 2017
- Author, "E-mails and Text Messages on Personal Accounts and Devices May Be Public Records Subject to Disclosure," California Special District magazine, May-June, 2017
- Author, "Cannabis Regulation Update: Governor's Trailer Bill Reconciles AUMA, MCRSA and Prop 215," Meyers Nave Client Alert, 2017
- Author, "Court Rules Private Email Accounts Subject to CPRA," California Special Districts Association e-News, 2017
- Presenter, "Emerging Issues Regarding the California Public Records Act," Sacramento County Bar Association, Public Law Section, 2017
- Presenter, "California Supreme Court Rules Public Business on Private Devices or Accounts Could Be Disclosed as a Public Record," California Special Districts Association webinar, 2017
- Quoted, “Government Emails and Texts on Private Computers Must Be Disclosed,” Daily Journal, March 3, 2017
- Quoted, “Calif. High Court Extends Public Records Law to Personal Devices,” Courthouse News, March 3, 2017
- Author, "California Supreme Court: Public Officials’ and Employees’ Communications on Private Devices and Accounts May be Public Records Subject to Disclosure," Meyers Nave Client Alert, 2017
- Author, "CA Supreme Court Rules Attorney-Client Privilege Does Not Automatically Protect Attorney Billing Invoices from CPRA Disclosure," Meyers Nave Client Alert, 2017
- Co-Author, "High Court to Consider Scope of Public Records Law," The Daily Journal, December, 2016
- Presenter, "Recreational Marijuana is Legal in California: Now What? A Guide for Moving Forward from the Passage of Proposition 64," Meyers Nave webinar, 2016
- Presenter, "Law Enforcement Trends and Legal Updates Under the California Public Records Act," County Counsels’ Association of California Sheriffs’ Work Group Spring Study Section Conference, 2016
- Co-Author, "Ruling Was Victory For Public Agencies," The Daily Journal, March, 2016
- Presenter, "Public Contracts," Northern California Power Agency, 2016
- Presenter, "Form 700 Training," City of Pittsburg, 2016
- Presenter, "AB 1234 – Public Service Ethics Laws and Principles," Northern California Power Agency Strategic Issues Conference, 2016
- Presenter, "Medical Marijuana Regulation & Safety Act: What You Need to Know NOW," City of Pittsburg, 2016
- Presenter, "Informational Briefing on Medical Marijuana Regulation & Safety Act," League of California Cities, 2016
- Author, "Taxing Marijuana: What Can Cities Do and How Should It Be Done?," Meyers Nave Client Alert, 2016
- Author, "Recreational Marijuana is Legal in California – Now What?," Meyers Nave Client Alert, 2016
- Author, "Marijuana Initiative Qualifies for Ballot: Key Points for Local Governments," Meyers Nave Client Alert, 2016
- Author, "Good News for Public Agencies: Supreme Court Decides Accidental Disclosure of Privileged Documents under Public Records Act Does Not Result in Waiver of Privilege," Meyers Nave Client Alert, 2016
- Author, "Court Orders Release of Names and Addresses of Turf Rebate Program Participants," Meyers Nave Client Alert, 2016
- Presenter, "Surveillance and Data Collection and the Public Records Act," Emerging Technology & Privacy Conference, The State Bar of California, 2015
- Presenter, "Public Records Act: Leading Your Team Through the PRA Obstacle Course," California Special Districts Association General Manager Leadership Summit, 2015
- Presenter, "Conflicts of Interest Under the Fair Political Practices Act: Your Responsibilities," California Special Districts Association Board Secretary/Clerk Conference, 2015
- Co-Presenter, "Staying in Compliance: Understanding Fundamental Special District Laws," California Special Districts Association Board Secretary/Clerk Conference, 2015
- Author, "Appellate Court Says Accidental Disclosure of Documents Does Not Waive Privileges," Meyers Nave Client Alert, 2015
- Author, "Supreme Court to Review Decision on Accidental Disclosure of Privileged Documents Under CPRA," Meyers Nave Client Alert, 2015
- Author, "Public Agencies Not Required to Disclose Records of Automatic License Plate Readers," Meyers Nave Client Alert, 2015
- Author, "Public Agencies Not Required to Disclose Attorney Billing Invoices Under CPRA; Attorney-Client Privilege Applies to Entire Invoice," Meyers Nave Client Alert, 2015
- Co-Author, "Impact of Public Records Initiative Uncertain," The Daily Journal, July, 2014
- Co-Author, "Public Officials’ Private Emails not Public Records," The Daily Journal, April, 2014
- Presenter, "Brown Act, Conflict of Interest and Public Records Act in California," Lorman Seminar, 2014
- Presenter, "The Ralph M. Brown Act - A Local Government Drama," California Special Districts Association Board Secretary/Clerk Conference, 2014
- Presenter, "What You Need to Know About Public Records and Open Meetings," LawReview CLE webinar, 2013
- Moderator, "Navigating Requests for Records Under the California Public Records Act," C.A.S.H. Annual Conference, 2013 and 2014
- Co-Author, "Developing Trends in Medical Marijuana Regulations," The Public Law Journal, Summer, 2013
- Presenter, "Electronic Communications and Open Meeting Laws," International Municipal Lawyers Association Annual Conference, 2013
- Presenter, Medical Marijuana Work Session, International Municipal Lawyers Association Annual Conference, 2013
- Moderator, "What you Need to Know About Public Records and Open Meetings," Lorman Education Services Seminar, 2011 and 2012
- Presenter, "Impact of RDA Dissolutions on Special Districts," California Special Districts Association webinar, 2012
- Presenter, "Untangling the Web of Fair Political Practices Regulations," Northern California City Clerks Association, 2012
- Member, The State Bar of California
- Member, Cannabis Regulatory Committee, League of California Cities
- Member, Power Association of Northern California
- Member, Association of Women in Water, Energy and Environment
- Past President, Women Lawyers of Sacramento
- Past Chair, Environmental Law Section, Sacramento County Bar Association
- Past Editorial Board Chair, past Editor, and past Chapter Author, California Municipal Law Handbook, League of California Cities
- Audio Describer, California Musical Theater
- University of California at Davis, King Hall School of LawJD
- Yale UniversityBA