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City Attorney Says Esparza Told Him to ‘Work Only for the Majority’

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At a Friday news conference, city councilman Garry Bredefeld accuses council president Nelson Esparza of attempting to extort the city attorney. (GV Wire/Albert Baker)
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Fresno City Attorney Douglas Sloan sent an email Friday night confirming the account given earlier in the day that his job security was threatened by the city council president, and Sloan was to only provide services to the council majority.

In a morning news conference at City Hall, city councilman Garry Bredefeld accused council president Nelson Esparza of attempting to extort Sloan in an April 22 meeting.

Bredefeld also confirmed to GV Wire that he sent a complaint to both the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office and the FBI. Earlier in the day, a DA spokesperson would not confirm a complaint was filed. Neither agency responded to GV Wire’s request for confirmation on Friday night.

Sloan Discusses Conversation with Esparza

Although he did not appear in person during Bredefeld’s event, Sloan — in his email to the media — relayed his account of what was discussed with Esparza last month.

Sloan wrote that Esparza told him “I’m just gong to cut to the chase. I’m standing between you and you losing your job. From now on you are to work only for the Council majority.”

The majority generally consist of Esparza, Tyler Maxwell, Miguel Arias and Esmeralda Soria.

When Sloan asked what to do if other councilmembers asked him to do something, Esparza said “come talk to me.”

Sloan said he did not intend the conversation to be made public, but “relayed this conversation to a few people.”

“First, I knew there was no proof, other than credibility, that the conversation occurred. Second, I was already strongly considering the new position, and I knew in my mind one way or another, I was certainly not going to violate the Charter and professional responsibilities and not provide services to all City officials. It is unfortunate this occurred,” Sloan wrote.

The city charter calls for the attorney to “Represent and advise the Council and all city officers in all matters of law pertaining to their offices.”

Sloan already accepted the city attorney position for Santa Monica. His last day in Fresno is June 3.

 

Email from Fresno City Attorney Douglas Sloan detailing a conversation with City Council President Nelson Esparza. Sloan provided his recollection in an email to Corin Hoggard, a reporter for Fresno TV station ABC30. The email was subsequently provided to GV Wire by City Councilman Garry Bredefeld.

Esparza denied Bredefeld’s accusations earlier in the day, calling them “false, unsubstantiated, and lack evidence.” Esparza did not respond to a request for an updated statement.

While many in the media — including GV Wire — reached out to Sloan for comment, he replied to an email from ABC 30’s Corin Hoggard. Bredefeld later sent GV Wire that email exchange.

[This story was updated Friday evening. Original story:]

Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld has accused council president Nelson Esparza of attempting to extort the city attorney.

At a Friday news conference at City Hall, Bredefeld alleged that Esparza told city attorney Douglas Sloan that he was not to do any work for three members of the seven-member council.

And, Bredefeld continued, if any of the three — Bredefeld, Mike Karbassi, and Luis Chavez — requested work, Sloan should report that to Esparza. Failure to follow his orders, Esparza said, would result in the city attorney’s firing, Bredefeld alleged.

The Fresno City Charter empowers the council to hire and fire the city attorney. Sloan announced this week that he had accepted an offer to become Santa Monica’s city attorney. In late April, Nelson announced that Sloan was leaving City Hall.

Photo of Nelson Esparza

“Unsurprisingly, Bredefeld is again making allegations that are false, unsubstantiated, and lack evidence.” — Fresno City Council President Nelson Esparza

Esparza, in a statement, strongly denied Bredefeld’s accusations.

“Unsurprisingly, Bredefeld is again making allegations that are false, unsubstantiated, and lack evidence. This latest tantrum comes with the irony that Bredefeld is the only Councilmember who has knowingly weaponized City Staff and resources, including the City Attorney’s Office, for political gain and media attention,” Esparza said.

Esparza also said that Bredefeld was “adversely” influencing the hiring of the next city attorney causing “our talent pool for this position to shrink.”

Moreover, the council president said, no one from law enforcement has contacted him about the city attorney’s situation.

Watch: Bredefeld Alleges Extortion Threat

Bredefeld: Law Enforcement Notified

“The latest corruption that has been taken to a new level, an attempt by Council President Nelson Esparza to extort our city attorney and disenfranchise nearly half the population of Fresno from having legal advice and services through three council members,” Bredefeld said.

Bredefeld also said that “law enforcement have been informed,” but he did not identify the agencies.

The Fresno Police Department says it has not received a complaint nor is it investigating the matter. A spokesperson for Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said the office “cannot confirm whether or not we have an active investigation into the allegation that Councilmember Bredefeld reported.”

Bredefeld: Sloan Told Me What Happened

Sloan did not appear at the news conference, but Bredefeld urged the media to contact him directly to verify his version of events. Sloan has not returned phone, text, or email messages from GV Wire seeking comment.

Bredefeld said that Sloan told him about an April 22 meeting between Sloan and Esparza.

“This is not second-hand. This is my sitting down and talking with (Sloan). He expressed that he felt this was an extortion attempt by Esparza and he was shocked by what he was told,” Bredefeld said. “He told me there were many reasons for his departure, and I believe there are many reasons for his departure. But essentially, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and this is why he left the city and sought another job.”

During the news conference, Bredefeld called Esparza “corrupt” 19 times.

Fresno City Attorney Douglas Sloan is moving to Santa Monica. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)

City Charter Description of Attorney’s Duties

The City Charter spells out the city attorney’s duties, namely to “Represent and advise the Council and all city officers in all matters of law pertaining to their offices.”

The document does not differentiate whether that applies to the council as a whole or to individual members.

Councilmembers often approach the city attorney individually to vet proposed legislation, Bredefeld said.

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email