Sloan: I Never Intended for Esparza Conversation to Become Public
This is in response to GV Wire’s July 29 story “Fresno Council President ‘a Little Pissant Millennial,’ Ex-City Attorney Reportedly Fumed” and reporter David Taub’s inquiry regarding the circumstances of my conversation with City Council President Nelson Esparza:
First, I will reiterate, what I described before is exactly what Esparza said.
Second, despite that, I never intended or desired for this matter to be made public, much less prosecuted. I told a few people, which I believed was in confidence. I did not tell any Councilmembers, at least until after they learned of it from other people. Nonetheless, once questioned about it, both in City Hall and with the DA’s office, I had to cooperate and tell the truth, however troubling that was and is.
I do not recall making the “pissant” statement. That is not a word I ever have used. It’s not even in my vocabulary. But, I have a lot of respect for (Fresno City Manager) Georgeanne White, and I’m not going to challenge that’s what she remembers.
For context, though, at the time I was extremely upset. I had just been told by one of my bosses I’d be fired unless I broke the law. I had worked for the City since 1998, both as outside counsel and in the City Attorney’s Office since 2006. I had spent nine years as City Attorney building an incredibly functional, productive, and professional office with people I had become close friends with. I had invested my heart and soul in that office, even to the point of my personal detriment due to the stress of the City Hall dynamic.
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With that one conversation, I knew staying would either be very unpleasant or not an option. As it turns out, Santa Monica is a fantastic place and I’m working with wonderful people, Councilmembers, Staff, and the City Attorney’s Office. But, I was not assured of that at that time.
So, when I met with Georgeanne, I was very upset. What we discussed I never would have imagined would be made public, both because of our working relationship and I didn’t expect the underlying matter to be made public. Under the circumstances, I could have expressed that anger, but I don’t think it was those words. That’s not what this is about, anyway.
Out in the Public and Out of My Hands
I want to repeat it to be clear. I did not want this to be made public. I could have dealt with it. But, once some Councilmembers were made aware of it, it was out of my hands and going public over my objection.
I did not want want to be characterized as a “victim,” didn’t want to see all the mudslinging that has occurred, and would have preferred to leave Fresno City Hall on good terms with everyone. I didn’t want to cause problems, and certainly there is not personal gain to be had. If I wanted that, I could have stayed and made claim or filed a lawsuit. I didn’t and don’t intend to.
I didn’t need an excuse to leave Fresno and come to Santa Monica. Like I said, this is a wonderful place, with great people, and incredible opportunity. At the time, I didn’t even know if the job was still open. I don’t need the grief in dealing with this, either.
Related Story: City Attorney Says Esparza Told Him to ‘Work Only for the Majority’
Check the Record: I Was a Nonpartisan City Attorney
My tenure with the City of Fresno has been as nonpartisan, apolitical, objective, and neutral as it possibly could be. Being apolitical and neutral has been codified in the CAO policy manual the entire time was I was City Attorney, and practiced every single day. Those who could not comply didn’t stay.
If anything, my record could demonstrate that I have assisted the Democratic side (even though nonpartisan) far more than the Republican side. Recently, as it was the Council majority desire, I assisted in every way possible to make the Tower Theater purchase take place — not exactly a Republican project. I assisted in moving and expanding Code Enforcement from Republican Mayors and Staff to a Democratic Council majority, and continued to support their Code Enforcement needs in every way possible, cleaning up their neighborhoods and making them look good.
I brought forward legislation to expand and clarify First Amendment protest rights. I was involved in airing the bonus situation. I provided a lot of support for two other Democratic Councilmembers aside from the “majority,” and have for others for years. I negotiated many business deals on behalf of Democratic Councilmembers. As contract counsel, I successfully defended a large lawsuit brought by a developer against the City and Councilmembers Mathys, Quintero, Ronquillo, Perea, and Bredefeld (a Democratic majority).
The bottom line is my record is clear that I was there to do my job, outside of politics, objectively. Recall that until the conversation was made public, the Council President had announced there would be a “Doug Sloan Day” prior to my leaving, which would not have been a thought had I been perceived by them as a political opponent.
Related Story: Fresno Council President Charged with Felony Over Alleged Extortion
De-Weaponizing Office Was My Idea
In fact, it was my idea to bring forward the legislation to “de-weaponize” the City Attorney’s Office. I didn’t think it was appropriate for some Councilmembers to use the office against other Councilmembers. The City Attorney needs to be able to work for everyone equally, and using the office politically impairs that ability. That’s one of the reasons what was said was so disappointing, and unnecessary.
It’s unfortunate this occurred, and more unfortunate that some people will try to use the circumstances for political or personal gain. That was never intended.
About the Author
Doug Sloan was the Fresno city attorney from 2013 through 2022. He is now the city attorney of Santa Monica.