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Politics 101

Something or Nothing? City Attorney Denies Request for City Hall Security Video



Security officers and screening tools greet visitors and employees at Fresno City Hall. (GV Wire File)
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Did a Fresno city councilmember say something inappropriate at the City Hall security line? Politics 101 has learned that an investigation is “pending.”

Photo of GV Wire's David Taub

David Taub

Politics 101

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.

Former congressman TJ Cox (left) leaves Fresno County jail in August after his arrest on 28 federal counts of fraud. He is accompanied by attorney Mark Coleman. (GV Wire File)

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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