As an elected official serving the public, it’s essential that everything you do is done with integrity and transparency, that your decisions and votes protect the taxpayer, and that any taxpayer money spent is done so appropriately.
I’ve now served with Councilmember Esmeralda Soria for five years and her actions, along with several other councilmembers, have often not met these important standards and I’ve publicly exposed these instances. Yet the media has ignored these issues.
Potential Conflicts of Interest
Below I address the problems, potential conflicts, and ethical issues related to Soria and Granite Park, which is operated by her fiancée, Terance Frazier. In the near future, I will address other ethical issues related to Soria.
Here’s just part of the many ethical issues in a historical context related to Granite Park and the questions that many in the local media refuse to ask Soria or investigate despite the fact that she is now a candidate for the state Assembly:
1. September 24, 2015. Soria walks out of the city council meeting just before the council votes to give an annual $150,000 contract to Frazier to run Granite Park. She leaves the chamber, doesn’t declare any conflict, and then once the vote is over, she immediately returns to the chamber. She missed no other votes that day and voted before and after the Granite Park item. Why did she miss that one vote? Was she then involved with Frazier but did not publicly declare it as required by law? You can see the minutes from that vote on item 2-B here.
2. Soria publicly acknowledges she is involved in a personal relationship with Frazier in 2017.
3. In August 2018, Frazier asks the city of Fresno for an additional annual $150,000 to run Granite Park saying he is not able to pay all the bills at Granite Park. Mayor Lee Brand asks to do an audit of the finances at Granite Park, which Frazier agrees to.
4. The audit is released in January 2019 showing numerous financial irregularities and money that is unaccounted for.
5. On April 2, 2019, Soria signed an amended California 700 form indicating that she has received interest income from a loan she gave Frazier. The amount of income received from the loan ranges from $1,000-$10,000. Soria has declared publicly that she has over $100,000 in personal student debt yet she provided a loan to Mr. Frazier. The public has no idea what the loan was for, how much she loaned him, the interest rate, the terms of the loan, how much she actually received from the loan — was it $1,000, $2,000, or $10,000?
6. In August 2020, Frazier filed a lawsuit against the city of Fresno for $10 million, stating then-Mayor Brand and others in his administration are racists and caused him great harm by releasing the results of the audit that showed numerous financial irregularities in his business operation of Granite Park.
7. On June 23, 2021, Frazier and Soria held a fund-raiser in Frazier’s home for Councilmember Miguel Arias — the exact day before Arias and fellow councilmembers Nelson Esparza and Tyler Maxwell were going to vote to give Frazier $4.3 million to pay off his $2.3 million in debts and an additional $2 million upfront. The city had no obligation to pay him one single penny. Not one penny!
8. On the same day, June 23, 2021, late in the afternoon, the city thankfully received a letter from Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp stating there was an ongoing investigation of violations of the Brown Act in relation to Granite Park and requested that any votes regarding Granite Park be postponed. Did Soria and others violate the Brown act regarding Granite Park? The media never investigated.
9. The next day on June 24, 2021, as a direct result of Smittcamp’s letter, during council budget hearings, councilmembers Arias, Maxwell, and Esparza moved the $5 million they had set aside to pay Mr. Frazier $4.3 million and put it back into the general fund. Smittcamp’s letter saved the taxpayers $4.3 million they had no obligation to pay to Frazier. If the council had not received the DA’s letter, Arias, Maxwell, and Esparza would’ve made Frazier and ultimately his fiancée and their political ally, Soria, instant millionaires.
10. In November 2021, Soria and Frazier went to Mexico to get married. Apparently, Arias, Maxwell, and Esparza also attended. Yet, later it was determined by the city attorney that they, in fact, did not get married. You can read the city attorney’s memo to her here. Why has the media has not asked questions as to why they did not get married when Soria publicly declared she was getting married? Her marital status has huge implications as to whether or not the city can do business with Frazier.
Much of Fresno Media Ignores Ethical Issues
The Fresno Bee and other local media, with the exception of GV Wire and KSEE-24, have virtually ignored these ethical issues. Hopefully, the media in Merced will ask the questions the constituents in the Assembly district have a right to know.
There will be more to come regarding other ethical issues.
About the Author
Garry Bredefeld is a Fresno city councilman representing District 6, which encompasses northeast Fresno.