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FUSD ‘Defamed’ Me in Investigation, Fresno Man Claims

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Fresno Unified headquarters in downtown Fresno. (GV Wire File)
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A Fresno man is seeking damages from Fresno Unified School District after he says he was defamed in the district’s investigative report on a former mid-level facilities and maintenance manager.

The claim by Dominick Berarducci is included in the School Board meeting agenda packet for Wednesday’s board meeting.

Superintendent Bob Nelson is recommending that the board reject Berarducci’s claim.

Berarducci’s attorney, Benjamin Tryk, did not respond to a phone call or email from GV Wire seeking comment.

According to the complaint, Berarducci claims the district defamed him and that there was “intentional interference with contractual relations.”

Says Investigator’s Report Defamed Him

Berarducci’s complaint said the injuries to his reputation stemmed from an investigation commissioned by Fresno Unified and conducted by Oliver, Thomas & Pierce Investigations, a Fresno private investigator, of Jason Duke, one of several mid-level managers who recently left Fresno Unified.

Duke was executive director of maintenance and operations at the district until his resignation effective Feb. 28. He had already started work two months earlier at a Fresno engineering firm, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Duke could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

Berarducci’s complaint alleges that the investigative report accused Duke and Berarducci of having a conflict of interest “due to their alleged relationship.” However, the investigator failed to contact or interview Berarducci regarding the alleged conflict of interest or relationship, the claim alleges.

“Mr. Berarducci’s character has been defamed due to the investigation and report published by FUSD,” the complaint alleges. “Following discovery of said report, Berarducci reached out to FUSD to determine why FUSD would publish such information without actually speaking to him. These attempts to contact FUSD for an explanation were unanswered.”

The amount of damages claimed is in excess of $25,000, per the complaint.

Nature of Investigation Kept Under Wraps

The district’s investigative report has not been released to the public, so details of the investigation are unclear.

In late January, Fresno Unified rejected GV Wire’s public records request for the report, saying that it was exempt from disclosure.

The potential harm of its release outweighed the public interest because Duke was not a high-ranking district official and the report is part of a “private” personnel file, and because the privacy of third parties would be harmed by its release, the district said in response to GV Wire’s request.

The district also claimed the report was exempt from disclosure because it was protected under attorney-client privilege.

Defamation Complaint

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email