One day after Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp sounded a warning about a Fresno City Council vote on settling a lawsuit about Granite Park, Terance Frazier criticized the move.
The City Council was scheduled to vote on settling a lawsuit Frazier and his nonprofit Central Valley Community Sports Foundation filed for what he called a flawed city audit of his nonprofit. Smittcamp, in a letter released Wednesday afternoon nearly 18 hours before the scheduled meeting, said she is investigating alleged violations of the state’s open meeting law. The Brown Act, as it is known, says a majority of a local government body cannot discuss city business in private.
In the letter directed toward all City Council members and other top officials, Smittcamp advised the councilmembers not to vote on any Granite Park issue.
At the start of Thursday’s meeting, the council removed both closed session and open session agenda items related to Granite Park.
“Unfortunately yesterday, in a purely political move, Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, jammed the spokes of the consideration of this agreement with an out-of-the-blue announcement – and without one shred of evidence – that she was investigating ‘potential’ Brown Act (illegal meeting) violations and that she ‘requests that any vote regarding Granite Park be postponed until our investigation is complete,” Frazier said in a news release.
Frazier Hosted Political Fundraiser for Councilmember Wednesday
Frazier, president of CVCSF, operates recreational facility Granite Park, through a 2015 lease with the city.
Councilman Garry Bredefeld was the only councilmember to speak on the issue. He heavily criticized Frazier’s operation of Granite Park over the last five-plus years. Bredefeld also chastised Frazier’s fiancé, Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria, and raised questions about a political fundraiser Councilmember Miguel Arias held Wednesday night at Frazier’s home.
“I’ve never seen such an egregious betrayal of the taxpayer,” Bredefeld said from the dais. He repeatedly used the word “stench” when referring to the proposed settlement and a new lease.
Arias responded in to Bredefeld’s speech in a backhanded manner, saying he is glad he’s no longer calling COVID fake. He defended his holding his fundraiser at Frazier’s home.
“Each their council members have received political contributions and those contributions are very public. I’ve received political contributions from your publisher (GV Wire publisher and CEO/president of Granville Homes Darius Assemi). And that doesn’t limit my ability to comment on your articles, nor to go and engage in policymaking or contracts related to the publisher,” Arias said.
At #Fresno City Council. Items on Granite Park pulled after concerns from DA Lisa Smittcamp. @GarryBredefeld speaking about the new proposed lease that will now be delayed. Says Terance Frazier failed to live up to his end and pay his bills on current lease. pic.twitter.com/wpyjrtTXDx
— David Taub (@TaubGVWire) June 24, 2021
New Granite Park Lease Also on Agenda
The settlement of the lawsuit called for the city to pay Frazier and CVCSF $2.3 million for expenditures the nonprofit invested into the city-owned sports facility, and another $2 million as an advance on future proceeds from digital billboards installed at the property.
The council was also set to vote on a new lease with CVCSF for Granite Park’s operation. The two sides are already engaged in a 25 year lease, started in 2015. A new proposed lease for a minimum of 20 years and maximum of 70 years. The new deal would shift the responsibility of maintaining the park from CVCSF to the city.
When Frazier, the president of CVCSF, asked for a doubling of a $150,000 subsidy to run Granite Park in 2018, the city conducted an audit.
It found poor bookkeeping practices, but nothing illegal. It questioned several items and payments.
Frazier objected to the nature of the audit’s findings and questioned its public release. He called it a “political hit job.”
Also a property developer and entrepreneur, Frazier has deep political ties, including former Congressman TJ Cox, once a business partner, and Arias.
Councilmember Soria, Frazier’s fiancé, has recused herself on all City Council votes on items involving Frazier.
Frazier Questions Smittcamp
In his news release, Frazier called Smittcamp’s request for the city council to postpone a Granite Park vote “rich.”
Smittcamp said this is not the first complaint regarding allegations of councilmembers meeting illegally about Granite Park.
She told GV Wire those prior investigations were ongoing.
Frazier found fault with that.
“After publicly stating that she was investigating the principals of CVCSF (Terance Frazier and former Congressman TJ Cox) she has declined to release the results of her investigation. The reasons for her silence should be clear – because she would have to state there was no offense or misconduct. As the City Attorney for Fresno has previously affirmed, “Granite Park is in substantial compliance with their agreements,” Frazier said.
Last year, City Attorney Douglas Sloan told the City Council that CVCSF was in compliance with its lease.
Frazier also charged Smittcamp with unequal treatment on other public integrity investigations.
“Recently and notably, Ms. Smittcamp didn’t raise a question – or ask that the recent sale of University Medical Center be postponed – when a Fresno County Supervisor’s chief of staff was arrested following a conflict of interest regarding that sale. But today, she wants to marshal the full forces of the District Attorney’s Office to interfere in a service agreement negotiation between our organization and the City,” Frazier said.
Frazier was referencing the proposed sale of UMC to a local developer, which was later scrapped by both the Fresno County Board of Supervisors and the Fresno City Council.
Arias also criticized the way Smittcamp handles investigations.
“The district attorney publicizes claims that are made but never publicized that those claims were baseless and there was nothing found to be wrong,” Arias said.
Smittcamp responded via news release on Thursday afternoon. She called Frazier’s statements “misinformation and blatant lies.”
“The suggestion that there are any political motives to this, or any investigation conducted by the District Attorney’s Office, is preposterous and offensive and is a clear attempt at distracting from the nature of the allegation(s) themselves.,” Smittcamp said.
She said the investigation of the city’s original audit is ongoing.
“I find it interesting the CVCSF indicates that it is time for ‘Mrs. Smittcamp to stop using her elected position to pursue baseless “allegations” that defame the officials and community members who are actively working to improve our city’ when the press release yesterday did not mention any names, only the issue with the Granite Park contract. No names are mentioned because the investigation into the allegations have not been completed. It is ironic that they ask for facts to be released and then attempt to suggest that someone has been “defamed” when no names were given,” Smittcamp said.
Smittcamp also criticized Frazier’s operation of Granite Park, based on a recent visit.