Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Did Arias 'Weaponize' City Attorney's Office by Requesting Documents from Smittcamp?
gvw_david_taub
By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 3 weeks ago on
April 25, 2024

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer (right) signs a petition for Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp to revise Prop. 47 at a Feb. 20 unrelated news conference. Now, Councilmember Miguel Arias wants to know more details. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

Share

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A Fresno city councilmember wants to know how deeply Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp involved her office in the effort to revise Proposition 47.

City Councilmember Miguel Arias, through City Attorney Andrew Janz, sent Smittcamp’s office a letter requesting information about Smittcamp and her staff’s participation in gathering signatures for the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act.

Backers of the act gathered nearly 900,000 signatures statewide, making it highly likely that it will qualify for the November ballot.

“I think it is very unfortunate that the Office of City Attorney is being weaponized. I want to avoid that. It needs to be above politics.”Councilmember Mike Karbassi

“City of Fresno Councilmember Miguel Arias has requested my office, on his behalf, to submit a request under the Public Records Act,” Janz wrote in an April 23, 2024 letter to Deputy District Attorney Jamie Kalebjian.

The request seeks information about any messages an office employee sent about Prop. 47, timecards and calendars for Smittcamp’s employees, travel to any signature gathering event, and any signature-gathering documents at the DA’s office.

State law generally prohibits public employees from campaign activities “on the clock,” or using public resources. Using public emails for political purposes is not allowed.

Anyone, whether an elected official or just a member of the public, can file a PRA with any government agency.

Karbassi Criticizes Letter

The letter is not going over well with City Councilmember Mike Karbassi.

“I think it is very unfortunate that the Office of City Attorney is being weaponized. I want to avoid that. It needs to be above politics. I’m confident that the District Attorney and her staff will be able to answer any questions regarding the facts,” Karbassi said.

Karbassi said he proudly signed the Prop. 47 revision.

As for Arias, he told GV Wire’s Bill McEwen: “Councilmember Karbassi has not raised the issue with me and I will defer comment until after I have a conversation with him.”

Janz’s letter does not state the motivation behind the request, nor link the effort to any official city business.

Nor did the city council place the issue on a meeting agenda.

“It’s all about politics … that’s why it’s a problem. And to use the city attorney’s office for the political potshots? It’s very upsetting to me,” Karbassi said.

Karbassi plans to ask Janz if it was appropriate for his office to send a PRA request on behalf of an individual councilmember.

“I’m wondering why it wasn’t done on that councilmember’s letterhead and why, instead, they found it necessary to use city attorney’s letterhead, as it did make it look like the council authorized it. The council took no vote and no action,” Karbassi said.

Councilmember Nelson Esparza said the letter is “between the city attorney and one of his clients.”

Smittcamp Advocates for Prop 47 Changes

Long an advocate for reforming Prop. 47, Smittcamp helped organize local petition drives to revise the landmark 2014 criminal sentencing reform law. Voters passed the law, which reduced some felonies to misdemeanors, and raised some thresholds for theft to be charged as a felony — particularly when it came to retail theft.

If approved by voters, the changes would give district attorneys and judges more leeway in charging criminals and present a treatment-or-prison option for drug addicts.

At one city of Fresno news conference last February, Smittcamp carried a clipboard soliciting signatures from the likes of Mayor Jerry Dyer.

Neither Janz nor Smittcamp responded to a request for comment.

Letter sent by City of Fresno Attorney Andrew Janz on behalf of councilmember Miguel Arias, asking the District Attorney for more information.

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

Jewish Lobby Presses California Lawmakers to Combat Antisemitism

DON'T MISS

Opinion: How Urban Renewal Ruined Everything

DON'T MISS

California Wine Squeezed Dry: Insiders Say It’s Time to Pull up Acreage

DON'T MISS

Alabama Mercedes Employees Overwhelmingly Vote Against Joining Union, Slowing UAW Effort in South

DON'T MISS

Stock Market Today: Dow Finishes Above 40,000 to Cap Wall Street’s Latest Winning Week

DON'T MISS

Where Do State Lawmakers Stand on War in Gaza, Campus Protests?

DON'T MISS

High-Speed Rail Now Working to Extend Valley Line to 171 Miles

DON'T MISS

Beautify Fresno Combines Dog Adoption, Litter Removal in Unique Saturday Event

DON'T MISS

Bulldogs’ Gilmore Named MW Softball Pitcher of the Year

DON'T MISS

The Latest | Dozens of Israeli Protesters Attack a Truck in an Apparent Effort to Block Gaza Aid

UP NEXT

Opinion: How Urban Renewal Ruined Everything

UP NEXT

California Wine Squeezed Dry: Insiders Say It’s Time to Pull up Acreage

UP NEXT

Alabama Mercedes Employees Overwhelmingly Vote Against Joining Union, Slowing UAW Effort in South

UP NEXT

Stock Market Today: Dow Finishes Above 40,000 to Cap Wall Street’s Latest Winning Week

UP NEXT

Where Do State Lawmakers Stand on War in Gaza, Campus Protests?

UP NEXT

High-Speed Rail Now Working to Extend Valley Line to 171 Miles

UP NEXT

Beautify Fresno Combines Dog Adoption, Litter Removal in Unique Saturday Event

UP NEXT

The Latest | Dozens of Israeli Protesters Attack a Truck in an Apparent Effort to Block Gaza Aid

UP NEXT

Computer Science, History Students Selected for Fresno State’s Highest Academic Honors

UP NEXT

$20 Billion: The Delta Tunnel’s New Price Tag

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

Alabama Mercedes Employees Overwhelmingly Vote Against Joining Union, Slowing UAW Effort in South

3 hours ago

Stock Market Today: Dow Finishes Above 40,000 to Cap Wall Street’s Latest Winning Week

3 hours ago

Where Do State Lawmakers Stand on War in Gaza, Campus Protests?

4 hours ago

High-Speed Rail Now Working to Extend Valley Line to 171 Miles

4 hours ago

Beautify Fresno Combines Dog Adoption, Litter Removal in Unique Saturday Event

5 hours ago

Bulldogs’ Gilmore Named MW Softball Pitcher of the Year

6 hours ago

The Latest | Dozens of Israeli Protesters Attack a Truck in an Apparent Effort to Block Gaza Aid

7 hours ago

Computer Science, History Students Selected for Fresno State’s Highest Academic Honors

7 hours ago

$20 Billion: The Delta Tunnel’s New Price Tag

7 hours ago

NFL Distances from Chiefs Kicker Butker’s Commencement Remarks

7 hours ago

Jewish Lobby Presses California Lawmakers to Combat Antisemitism

Hundreds of members of a Jewish lobbying group met with more than 100 California legislators, with combatting antisemitism at the top of the...

56 mins ago

56 mins ago

Jewish Lobby Presses California Lawmakers to Combat Antisemitism

2 hours ago

Opinion: How Urban Renewal Ruined Everything

2 hours ago

California Wine Squeezed Dry: Insiders Say It’s Time to Pull up Acreage

3 hours ago

Alabama Mercedes Employees Overwhelmingly Vote Against Joining Union, Slowing UAW Effort in South

3 hours ago

Stock Market Today: Dow Finishes Above 40,000 to Cap Wall Street’s Latest Winning Week

4 hours ago

Where Do State Lawmakers Stand on War in Gaza, Campus Protests?

Hanford Viaduct High-Speed Rail Construction
4 hours ago

High-Speed Rail Now Working to Extend Valley Line to 171 Miles

5 hours ago

Beautify Fresno Combines Dog Adoption, Litter Removal in Unique Saturday Event

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend