The Fresno City Council, at the direction of the City Manager, terminated City Controller Michael Lima.
Although the controller is selected by the city manager at the behest of the mayor, the city charter requires the city council to approve the hiring or firing.
Lima headed the city’s finance department, which among other things provided accounting and audits of the city’s money.
By a 7-0 vote, Lima was let go immediately. No reason was given.
Assistant City Manager Ruthie Quinto was appointed interim city controller. The City Council directed her to perform an audit of city finances within 60 days. Quinto previously served as City Controller from 2001 to 2005.
In addition to her role as assistant city manager, and now controller, for the city of Fresno, Quinto is also employed as city treasurer in Malibu.
In March 2022, Mayor Jerry Dyer revealed the city was the victim of a scam, paying out $613,000 in fake invoices. At the time, Dyer said “personnel action” was taken, but did not elaborate.
Lima, who was with the city for 28 years — the last eight as controller — was given a new contract in July. His most recent base salary was $189,500.
Under the terms of the contract, Lima will receive six months’ severance, if he was not terminated for serious misconduct.
Also in Politics 101 …
- No transparency from City Council on Esparza criminal defense funding.
- How long did the City Council meeting run?
- City Council decides yes on a trolley, no on a train.
- New bill gives Zanoni, Smittcamp six-year terms.
Still No Transparency on Esparza Vote
The City Council did not reveal how it voted earlier this year about providing taxpayer funds for Councilman Nelson Esparza’s criminal defense.
Last month, in documents revealed by GV Wire, an outside attorney hired by the City Council urged the body to make the June 23 vote public, as mandated by state open meeting laws.
Esparza was charged in July with attempting to extort then-City Attorney Douglas Sloan. In an arraignment hearing last week, Esparza did not enter a plea.
The City Council also discussed, behind closed doors, leaks from closed session — including documents published by GV Wire. An item to discuss the policy of enforcing the prevention of leaks was initially on the open session agenda, but was folded into a similar item in closed session. No decision was announced.
The Lima announcement came just before midnight Thursday/Friday, culminating a 15-hour ultra-marathon meeting that lasted until daybreak.
Well, daybreak for Councilman Mike Karbassi, who participated from Armenia, 11 hours ahead. The meeting started at 9:15 a.m. PDT and the open session lasted until 9:58 p.m.
That was followed by a nearly two-hour closed session.
The City Council’s agenda was essentially a double meeting. A Sept. 15 regularly scheduled meeting was canceled because of what was described as a “lack of quorum.”
Other Notable Actions
Other items of note from the meeting:
- The City Council approved $600,000 for “education” on two ballot measures. Local Government Strategic Consulting will receive $450,000 to let the public know about Measure M, a sales tax increase for veterans facilities and programs.
Jeffrey Scott Agency will receive $150,000 for the county-wide renewal of Measure C, the sales tax dedicated to transportation projects.
Because the efforts are publicly funded, the education materials cannot advocate the measures’ passage for defeat. All materials will be vetted through the City Attorney’s office.
- The historic train engine in front of Roeding Park is heading to Kingsburg. The Fresno City Council voted 5-0 to transfer the Southern Pacific Engine 1238 to the Kingsburg Depot Museum. The vote was part of the consent agenda with no discussion.
- The City Council agreed, on a 4-3 vote, to purchase trolleys that will run from Fresno State, through the Tower District, to downtown. Councilman Garry Bredefeld opposed the purchase, fearing the trolly service will encourage college kids to drink more.
Wallace Settlement Now Official
The city of Fresno released documents finalizing its settlement with London Wallace for alleged police brutality.
Body camera video showed police repeatedly punching Wallace in the face during a 2019 gang arrest. Wallace was never charged.
As previously reported, the settlement (read it here) is for $500,000. It was made final Aug. 17.
Six More Years! Six More Years!
Fresno County Sheriff-elect John Zanoni does not take office until January, but he’s already extended his term for two more years, through 2028.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 759 on Thursday night, changing when sheriffs and district attorneys are elected — from governor elections (2022, 2026, etc.) to presidential years (2024, 2028, etc.).
For most counties, sheriffs and district attorneys elected this year will receive a one-time extension through 2028. That includes Zanoni, and incumbent District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, both elected in June.
Both Zanoni and current Sheriff Margaret Mims opposed the plan.