Taxpayer Action - California Code of Civil Procedure Section 526a

Taxpayer Action Code of Civil Procedure section 526a provides in pertinent part: "An action to obtain a judgment, restraining and preventing any illegal expenditure of, waste of, or injury to, the estate, funds, or other property of a county, town, city or city and county of the state, may be maintained against any officer thereof, or any agent, or other person, acting in its behalf, either by a citizen resident therein, or by a corporation, who is assessed for and is liable to pay, or, within one year before the commencement of the action, has paid, a tax therein." The purpose of this statute, which applies to citizen and corporate taxpayers alike, is to permit a large body of persons to challenge wasteful government action that otherwise would go unchallenged because of the standing requirement. (Blair v. Pitchess (1971) 5 Cal. 3d 258, 267-268 [96 Cal. Rptr. 42, 486 P.2d 1242, 45 A.L.R.3d 1206].) To this end, the statute has been construed liberally. (Ibid.) Therefore, although by its terms the statute applies to local governments, it has been judicially extended to all state and local agencies and officials. ( Farley v. Cory (1978) 78 Cal. App. 3d 583, 589 [144 Cal. Rptr. 923]; Los Altos Property Owners Assn. v. Hutcheon (1977) 69 Cal. App. 3d 22, 30 [137 Cal. Rptr. 775].) While the statute speaks of injunctive relief, taxpayer standing has been extended to actions for declaratory relief, mandamus and, in some circumstances, damages. (Van Atta v. Scott (1980) 27 Cal. 3d 424, 449-450 [166 Cal. Rptr. 149, 613 P.2d 210].) Regardless of liberal construction, the essence of a taxpayer action remains an illegal or wasteful expenditure of public funds or damage to public property. ( Fiske v. Gillespie (1988) 200 Cal. App. 3d 1243, 1246 [246 Cal. Rptr. 552].) The taxpayer action must involve an actual or threatened expenditure of public funds. (Ibid.)