Local Agency Formation Commissions (LAFCos)

Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley, PC’s attorneys are among just a few in California with deep expertise in the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Act (the CKH Act), the law governing Local Agency Formation Commissions, or LAFCos. The Firm currently serves as general counsel to the Calaveras, San Diego and Yuba LAFCos and as alternate counsel to several other LAFCos on matters as to which their general counsels have conflicts of interest. The Firm’s attorneys have also served as special counsel to LAFCos throughout the state. We also represent cities, counties, and special districts in LAFCo matters.

Michael G. Colantuono was appointed by the Assembly Rules Committee to the Commission on Local Governance in the 21st Century which produced a report entitled “Growth Within Bounds” that led to the adoption of A.B. 2838 in 2000 to comprehensively revise the CKH Act. In addition to being an active participant in the work of the Commission, as one of two lawyers in private practice on the Commission, he played an active role in drafting and negotiating the language of A.B. 2838. Holly O. Whatley represented the California Association of LAFCOs in rewriting the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research’s “LAFCO’s, General Plans, and City Annexations” (Feb. 7, 2012). David J. Ruderman is Assistant General Counsel of Yuba LAFCO and Gary B. Bell are active in CALAFCO and support our work for our clients in LAFCO matters.


The Firm’s LAFCo team of Michael G. Colantuono, Holly O. Whatley, David J. Ruderman and Gary B. Bell have deep experience in advising LAFCos and local governments appearing before them on all aspects of the CKH Act and related public agency law, including:

  • Spheres of influence
  • Municipal service reviews
  • Annexations and other reorganizations of cities and special districts
  • Property tax exchange agreements
  • Conducting authority proceedings
  • Elections
  • California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
  • Brown Act compliance
  • Conflict of interest laws
  • Campaign disclosure rules applicable to LAFCo proceedings


In addition to their advisory expertise, the Firm’s LAFCo team has extensive experience defending LAFCos in court. For example, the Firm defended San Diego LAFCo in litigation involving a disputed island annexation involving a Home Depot site the court found to be substantially surrounded by El Cajon. The Firm successfully defending a developer’s challenge to San Luis Obispo LAFCo’s denial of an annexation. Similarly, the Firm successfully defended a disputed annexation to the City of Huntington Beach contesting whether Proposition 218 requires voter approval of taxes extended to inhabited islands upon annexation, which led to a published decision, an important victory for all LAFCos in the State. And, the Firm defended San Diego LAFCo in a dispute between two cities regarding the navy’s development of a new facility in reliance on historic out-of-boundary service from one of them. The Firm is also defending a dispute between two healthcare districts regarding out-of-boundary service.

In short, the Firm has the skill and experience to assist with all aspects of CHK compliance with at every stage or a reorganization process and with LAFCo litigation of all kinds.