Did a Fresno city councilmember say something inappropriate at the City Hall security line? Politics 101 has learned that an investigation is “pending.”
The alleged incident occurred in mid-September. A witness said Miguel Arias, while at the checkpoint at the City Hall entrance said something — perhaps in a humorous manner — that was taken seriously by others.
Other sources relayed a similar story to Politics 101.
The exact nature of Arias’s alleged comments is unclear.
As the signs at any airport security checkpoint remind us, it is a bad idea to tell jokes in such places.
GV Wire requested security video of the alleged incident. The city refused, saying “the request seeks disclosure of documents and/or information related to a pending investigation.”
Others with knowledge of the situation say they cannot talk about what happened because it is a personnel matter.
When asked what went on, Arias said that “nothing happened.”
Also in Politics 101 …
- Councilmembers skip a discussion on funding colleague’s criminal defense.
- Taxpayer group keeping on council spending.
- TJ Cox court hearing delayed.
No Answer on When Council Will Practice Transparency
Once again, the Fresno City Council is scheduled to discuss Councilman Nelson Esparza’s criminal case in closed session this Thursday.
Politics 101 has learned that during the Sept. 29 council meeting, the same item was not discussed because of a lack of quorum.
Esparza faces a felony count of attempted extortion, after allegedly telling the former city attorney that he would lose his job if he didn’t work exclusively for the council majority. He returns to court on Oct. 27 to enter a plea.
GV Wire has reported that the council voted in closed session in June to fund Esparza’s defense, but the council has never acknowledged that fact publicly.
Councilmembers Garry Bredefeld, Mike Karbassi, and Luis Chavez confirmed they were present for the Sept. 29 discussion. Esparza recused himself.
“I wanted a quorum. It’s on the agenda for a reason. The council needs to take up the matter,” Bredefeld said.
Karbassi said: “It’s just more drama from the Fresno City Council. I can’t specifically point to a coordinated conspiracy, but on the heels of the canceled meeting (of Sept. 15), nothing surprised me anymore.”
An opinion from an outside attorney hired by the city council recommended that the body reveal its vote from last June to fund Esparza’s legal bills.
Councilman Tyler Maxwell said he did not have time to answer questions when approached by GV Wire at a City Hall event on Monday.
Mayor Jerry Dyer briefly commented about public funds being used for Esparza’s defense during an interview with Alexan Balekian on KSEE-24’s “Sunday Morning Matters.”
“I think there is the one caveat — that it depends. It depends on what the elected official was doing at the time in which the offense was alleged. And so I believe that’s what the city attorney has given an opinion on. And really, my opinion isn’t of significance. The opinion that matters most is the city attorney,” Dyer said.
Taxpayer Targets Ballot Measure ‘Education’ Spending
A taxpayer advocacy group is warning the city of Fresno about its spending for “education” efforts on two ballot measures in the November election.
In a letter sent to the city last week, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association says paying money to consultants to inform the public about Measure C (county sales tax for transportation issues) and Measure M (city sales tax for veterans facilities and programs) could cross a line.
“It looks very suspiciously close to campaign advertising and not merely informational activity. So we’re going to be we’re going to start by monitoring it,” HJTA president Jon Coupal told Politics 101. “If you read that contract, it certainly looks like a full-blown political campaign.”
Last month, the Fresno City Council approved $600,000 for the two campaigns. While informational spending is allowed, a government group cannot cross the line into supporting or opposing. All information will be vetted by the City Attorney’s Office.
“That is something Thomas Jefferson recognized. He said it is impermissible to require a person to pay for views with which they disagree,” Coupal said.
Coupal said they have notified the state political spending watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, about the goings-on in Fresno.
Dyer, speaking on “Sunday Morning Matters,” justified the spending.
“It is important for the voters to be educated on what they’re voting on. Far too often, I think voters are either misled or may not have the most current or accurate information when they make a vote,” Dyer said.
The council will discuss HJTA concerns in closed session on Thursday.
TJ Cox Returns to Court Next Year
Former congressman TJ Cox was scheduled to appear in federal court on Wednesday for a status conference. That will now be continued until Jan. 11.
The Department of Justice indicted Cox on 28 counts of fraud in August, based on his actions while serving in Washington from 2019-2021 and before.
One reason cited for the continuance in court paperwork: the voluminous alleged evidence the government has to share with Cox’s legal team.