Despite being told by the city attorney that his options are limited, Mayor Jerry Dyer is looking into what authority he has over the Fresno City Council’s vote to purchase the Tower Theatre.
Dyer says will meet with the city attorney and city manager to see if, indeed, he has the power to block the transaction.
Of the five parts in the agreement passed by the city council, Dyer may only veto the resolution on how to use the theater once purchased, according to the city attorney’s interpretation of veto rules.
The city attorney’s office is under the city council, which can hire and fire the position with a majority vote.
Dyer said it is “premature to have that discussion publicly” whether he would issue a veto over the city attorney’s interpretation.
City Votes to Buy Theater
With a 4-3 vote last week, the city council approved buying the theater and adjacent properties for $6.5 million, $1.5 million above the appraisal price. The council also agreed to take over litigation faced by the owners of the Tower Theatre and Sequoia Brewing Company.
“I don’t support indemnification at all. I think it assumes far too much potential liability for the city. Also, my concern has been with the purchase price,” Dyer said.
The theater owners are defending a lawsuit by Adventure Church. The church attempted to buy the theater in 2020 and argues its contract is still valid. The city disagrees.
The escrow period for the city’s purchase of the theatre is 45 days.
What the City Charter Says
Under the city charter, the mayor may not use a veto on land use decisions. It was the result of a 1993 vote by Fresno citizens to switch to a strong-mayor format.
Section 605(c) of the city charter describes what a mayor cannot veto.
Regarding land use, the charter says the veto shall not extend to:
- Certain land use decisions including; the amendment of specific plans, community plans, and general plans; rezonings; conditional use permits or other special use permits approved by Council after consideration by the Planning Commission;”
- Any other land use action, other than text amendments to the Fresno Municipal Code, and whether legislative or quasi-judicial in nature, in which the matter has been considered at a public hearing before the City Council and Planning Commission.
The exact definition of “other land use” could be a matter for interpretation. So could whether indemnification falls under land use.
“That’s the overall challenge with our charter, that there’s enough vagueness in there that interpretations are sometimes simply that, interpretations. I would like to see a more black and white charter that clearly delineates authorities and much better than what the current charter does,” Dyer said.
City Attorney Douglas Sloan did not respond to an email request for comment.
The mayor has 10 days to veto from the time he receives a council resolution from the city clerk. A veto on the Tower Theatre purchase must be returned by May 2.