Fresno COVID Contract Awarded Despite Objections Over Tweet, Lawsuit
The Fresno City Council approved more contracts to help the COVID-19 effort, but two councilmen objected to awarding $2 million to a community-based organization.
The council voted 5-2 to award the contract to Fresno Building Healthy Communities for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. Councilmen Garry Bredefeld and Paul Caprioglio voted no.
Also in Politics 101:
- Councilmen lodge objections to Fresno BHC contract.
- An alternate proposal gains no traction.
- Other council action includes renewing police incentive program.
- Frazier attorney files FPPC complaint against Mayor Brand.
- Fresno Dems want to remove sitting member.
Bredefeld, Caprioglio Attack Fresno BHC
Bredefeld said Fresno BHC does not have the proper background in testing and tracing. He also felt the group did not deserve a city contract because of a controversial tweet from BHC’s president and CEO Sandra Celedon.
In May, Celedon tweeted “burn it down” in reference to the torching of a Minneapolis police station during protests following the death of George Floyd.
“She obviously supports burning healthy communities, not building them,” Bredefeld said.
Caprioglio objected to a lawsuit filed by Fresno BHC against the city over 2018’s Measure P — the parks sales tax initiative. Although it received 52% support, the city said it needed two-thirds to pass. Fresno BHC is challenging that interpretation. The case is currently at the state appellate level.
“I don’t give money to people that sue me or my clients or my community or my university or otherwise,” Caprioglio, an attorney by trade, said.
Bredefeld angered Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria over his assertion that Fresno BHC had “friends” on the council.
“You don’t know who my friends are, obviously,” Soria responded. “I do take offense to it so I’m going to speak out on it.”
Councilman Mike Karbassi condemned the tweet, but supported the motion.
“I’m not voting on that tweet. I have to put my personal bias aside and do what’s right for the community,” Karbassi said. “This organization, whether we agree with the politics organization or not, has a lot of buy-in with the community and they’re able to provide a service that perhaps some others can’t.”
Alternate Proposal Fails
“I don’t give money to people that sue me or my clients or my community or my university or otherwise.” — Councilman Paul Caprioglio
Prior to the council discussion, Celedon virtually presented Fresno BHC’s plan, which included collaboration with several other organizations. The proposal includes education on COVID-19, coordination with UCSF Fresno for testing, and direct quarantine support.
The county is supporting the same Fresno BHC plan with $5 million.
Bredefeld and Caprioglio offered an alternate proposal, to replace Fresno BHC with Fresno State, Fresno City College and UCSF as the lead agencies. That amendment failed 5-2.
Council members approved, without objection, contracts for North Fresno Primary Care, Inc. and Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission for similar services. The votes were 7-0 and 6-0 respectively.
Councilman Luis Chavez recused himself for the Fresno EOC vote because his wife, Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas, works for the organization.
Other Council Action
It was a busy day for the city council, holding a regular meeting for the first time since July 16. Here are some of the other items discussed:
— Approved a $36 million contract with Richmond, CA-based C. Overaa & Company to build a 917-stall, four-story parking garage at the Fresno Yosemite International airport. According to the city staff report, the project will hire 200 workers, with at least 75% of them being from the local area. The project is expected to have an economic impact of $22.5 million. Construction is expected to be completion in time for the 2022 holiday season.
— The council renewed the city’s incentive package of up to $10,000 for law enforcement officers from other agencies to transfer to the Fresno Police Department. The program has paid out incentives to 72 officers since it started in 2015.
— The council established fines for cars illegally parked at 87 soon-to-be-installed electric charging stations. In April, the council approved $783,000 in grants from the state and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. Only electric vehicles that are actively charging will be allowed to park at designated spots. Citations include a $100 penalty. Recharge station users will be charged, 25 cents per kilowatt hour. Other public and private EV charging stations require payment, according to consulting firm EV Connect.
— The council will allow Quiring General, LLC to act as the licensed general contractor for the construction of a new animal shelter near the airport. The original contractor, Northstar General, “has been unable to obtain the required Bonds for the project” due to extenuating circumstances, according to the staff report. Northstar and Quiring will build the shelter under a “business alliance,” the report said. The change is not expected to increase costs or cause delays.
All the items were approved as part of the council’s consent agenda with a 7-0 vote.
Brand, Other City Leaders Accused of Conflict of Interest
Mayor Lee Brand and three other City Hall officials are the subject of a complaint to the state’s political campaign enforcer.
Brand, city manager Wilma Quan, chief of staff Tim Orman and assistant city manager Jim Schaad are accused of attempting to intervene in a lawsuit filed last month by developer Terance Frazier.
Frazier’s attorney, Kevin Little, filed the complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission on Tuesday.
“The Respondents, despite their status as defendants named in their individual capacities, are attempting to intervene in a closed session of the City Council to discuss this litigation and make important decisions regarding its handling. This is an obvious conflict of interest,” the one-page complaint said.
Frazier filed a suit against the four and the city of Fresno claiming racial bias and unfair practices over the 2019 release of an audit of Granite Park. Frazier’s non-profit, the Central Valley Community Sports Foundation, operates the sports and recreation facility for the city. It receives a $150,000 subsidy to offset costs.
The Fresno City Council discussed the issue in closed session at its Thursday meeting but did not report any action taken.
“We have received information that the Mayor and his chief of staff want to intervene in this closed meeting. In our estimation that would pose a conflict of interest,” Little told Politics 101 via email.
Brand and his staff had no official comment.
“As a policy, we don’t discuss pending litigation,” said City Hall spokesman Mark Standriff.
FPPC fines are up to $5,000 per violation.
Related Story: Granite Park Lawsuit Accuses Fresno of Racism, Retaliation
Removal Process Starts Against Socialist on Fresno Dem Committee
Emily Cameron, an elected member of the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee, could be removed from office.
Cameron, also a member of the Fresno chapter of the Democratic Socialists for America, was voted into office by registered Democrats in March.
The executive board of the party met Wednesday to start removal proceedings for 25 violations of the party’s code of conduct.
Multiple sources told Politics 101 that the allegations against Cameron include disparaging fellow Democrats and supporting candidates not endorsed by the party.
“The member in question will be provided up to 30 minutes to dispute the allegations prior to a vote being conducted by the FCDCC. A threshold of two-thirds of voting FCDCC members must be met in order for the removal to take place,” the party said in a statement.
The next party meeting is Sept. 2.
(Update, 8/21/2020, 9:05 a.m.: The FCDCC corrected its statement to Politics 101, saying it was attributed to the party as a whole, and not vice president Nelson Esparza.)