Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Fresno DA's Office Explains How Slatic and Esparza Allegations Differ
gvw_david_taub
By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 1 year ago on
December 13, 2022

Share

The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office is defending its handling of allegations against former Fresno Unified trustee Terry Slatic, and how the case differs from that of another local public official, Nelson Esparza.

Slatic is accused of underreporting a meal from Superintendent Bob Nelson as a gift on his financial disclosure forms. The DA referred charges to the state’s political watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission.

“We felt that an administrative prosecution was the best avenue and that is primarily handled by the FPPC. That’s not something that my office normally does.”Prosecutor Victor Lai

As soon as GV Wire published the story Monday, the move received heavy criticism.

“Good to know DA Lisa wouldn’t charge her friend and supporter again,” wrote Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias — a staunch critic of District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp — on Twitter.

Navkaran Gurm, a Fresno County Democratic Party activist wrote on Twitter that “Lisa Smittcamp and @FresnoDA once again failed to file charges against Terry Slatic.”

Victor Lai, the senior deputy district attorney in charge of the Public Integrity Unit, says referring the case to the FPPC was the right move.

“We did not believe that any criminal charges could be pursued by our office, at least based on charges or proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Lai said in an exclusive interview with GV Wire.

Slatic is accused of underreporting a Dec. 2, 2021, meal purchased by Nelson and exceeding the yearly limit for accepting gifts ($520).

The trustee — whose term expired Dec. 9 — said he is waiting to speak with counsel before talking publicly, KMJ radio host Philip Teresi reported Monday.

Although criminal charges may have been out of reach, Lai said, Slatic could still be in jeopardy for not submitting correct information on his Form 700 — the annual financial disclosure report for elected officials.

“We felt that an administrative prosecution was the best avenue and that is primarily handled by the FPPC. That’s not something that my office normally does. They’re much more experienced in that type of thing. So given that they have the expertise in that area and that’s all that we could reasonably go after in our opinion, that’s why the referral was made,” Lai said.

Lai said that his office does have the ability to file civil lawsuits, but says that is not his office’s “expertise.”

Comparisons to Nelson Esparza Case

The case has been compared by critics to the DA’s handling of Fresno City Councilman Nelson Esparza. In July, Esparza was charged with a felony count of attempted extortion (later reduced to a misdemeanor by a judge), for allegedly telling the city attorney to “work only for the council majority” or face termination. A misdemeanor violation of the city charter was also part of the case. The DA dropped charges on Dec. 5.

Lai said there is a difference.

“The type of charges that Nelson Esparza was exposed to are not the type of charges that are handled by the FPPC and they’re not subject to administrative action. And that’s why they were in the province of this office,” Lai said.

“It comes down to what types of agencies handle what types of things. So that is a type of thing that is handled by the FPPC, whereas the charges surrounding Esparza were the type of thing that are handled by a local district attorney’s office,” Lai said.

Several left-leaning groups criticized Esparza’s prosecution, including the Fresno County Democratic Party. They cited a narrative that Smittcamp’s office only goes after Democrats, especially Democrats of color, while not prosecuting Republicans or conservatives.

She has denied those accusations.

Other Cases Involving Fresno Politicians

In 2019, the DA declined to press charges against Slatic for a physical altercation with a student at Bullard High School. That case was not investigated by the PIU. Slatic is registered as an American Independent.

Also that year, a jury acquitted Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, a Fresno Democrat, of child abuse. That case was not prosecuted by the PIU.

In 2020, Smittcamp’s office declined to charge Arias with battery stemming from an altercation with far-right protesters at Arias’ downtown condominium.

“The District Attorney’s decision to not pursue the baseless claims made by out-of-town agitators was the right one,” Arias said at that time.

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

A Fresno Edition of Monopoly? That’s Capitalism at Work, Baby!

DON'T MISS

California Officials Sue Huntington Beach Over Voter ID Law Passed at Polls

DON'T MISS

Indiana Fever Receives No. 1 Overall Draft Pick Caitlin Clark

DON'T MISS

Which Fresno Restaurants Are Best? The Pros Picked These Places.

DON'T MISS

Trump’s Historic Hush-Money Trial Gets Underway; 1st Day Ends Without Any Jurors Being Picked

DON'T MISS

Fresno-Madera United Way Launches National Search for New CEO

DON'T MISS

Justice Thomas Misses Supreme Court Session Monday With No Explanation

DON'T MISS

‘Civil War’ Declares Victory at the Box Office, Toppling ‘Godzilla X Kong’

DON'T MISS

Why Tortillas Sold in California May Be Forced to Add a New Ingredient

DON'T MISS

Costco Tries Again at City Council for Big NW Fresno Move

UP NEXT

Fresno-Madera United Way Launches National Search for New CEO

UP NEXT

Justice Thomas Misses Supreme Court Session Monday With No Explanation

UP NEXT

‘Civil War’ Declares Victory at the Box Office, Toppling ‘Godzilla X Kong’

UP NEXT

Scheffler Turns the Masters Into Another Sunday Yawner With a Dominating Win

UP NEXT

Vegas, US Tour and More Signings: Wrexham Has Plenty of Fun and Work Ahead After Latest Promotion

UP NEXT

This Week’s Weather Will Take Us from Fleece to Flip-Flops

UP NEXT

NBA Play-in Game Preview: West Games on Tuesday, East Games on Wednesday, Eliminations on Friday

UP NEXT

Biden’s Embrace of Trump’s Tariffs Could Spell Trouble for His Reelection: Fareed Zakaria

UP NEXT

Alton Brown Wants to Find Good Eats in Fresno

UP NEXT

How California Legislators Got More Than $1.4 Million in Travel and Gifts in 2023

David Taub,
Senior Reporter
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

Which Fresno Restaurants Are Best? The Pros Picked These Places.

7 hours ago

Trump’s Historic Hush-Money Trial Gets Underway; 1st Day Ends Without Any Jurors Being Picked

7 hours ago

Fresno-Madera United Way Launches National Search for New CEO

Local /

8 hours ago

Justice Thomas Misses Supreme Court Session Monday With No Explanation

8 hours ago

‘Civil War’ Declares Victory at the Box Office, Toppling ‘Godzilla X Kong’

8 hours ago

Why Tortillas Sold in California May Be Forced to Add a New Ingredient

9 hours ago

Costco Tries Again at City Council for Big NW Fresno Move

10 hours ago

Scheffler Turns the Masters Into Another Sunday Yawner With a Dominating Win

10 hours ago

Ethiopia’s Lemma Wins, Fresno’s Albertson 7th in Boston Marathon. Kenya’s Obiri Retains Women Title.

10 hours ago

Vegas, US Tour and More Signings: Wrexham Has Plenty of Fun and Work Ahead After Latest Promotion

10 hours ago

A Fresno Edition of Monopoly? That’s Capitalism at Work, Baby!

Alright, cats and kittens, straphang onto your beanies because I’m about to lay a news flash on you that’s so whimsically wild it coul...

5 hours ago

Fresno Monopoly Edition
5 hours ago

A Fresno Edition of Monopoly? That’s Capitalism at Work, Baby!

5 hours ago

California Officials Sue Huntington Beach Over Voter ID Law Passed at Polls

5 hours ago

Indiana Fever Receives No. 1 Overall Draft Pick Caitlin Clark

7 hours ago

Which Fresno Restaurants Are Best? The Pros Picked These Places.

7 hours ago

Trump’s Historic Hush-Money Trial Gets Underway; 1st Day Ends Without Any Jurors Being Picked

Local /
8 hours ago

Fresno-Madera United Way Launches National Search for New CEO

8 hours ago

Justice Thomas Misses Supreme Court Session Monday With No Explanation

8 hours ago

‘Civil War’ Declares Victory at the Box Office, Toppling ‘Godzilla X Kong’

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend