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How Did Watchdog Respond to Arias Ethics Complaint on DA Smittcamp?
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 4 weeks ago on
April 30, 2024

Before City of Fresno Attorney Andrew Janz sent Fresno County DA Lisa Smittcamp, left, a request for records related to her Prop. 47 activities, Councilmember Miguel Arias, right, filed an ethics complaint with the state, which quickly rejected his filing. (GV Composite/David Rodriguez)

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Before Miguel Arias filed a request for documents from Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp regarding her Prop. 47 activities, he filed an ethics complaint with the state.

And, in the words of Smittcamp, the Fair Political Practices Commission told Arias to “pound sand.”

Three days after Arias filed the complaint, the FPPC — the state agency charged with enforcing campaign finance law — rejected the Fresno city councilmember’s claim that Smittcamp broke rules about using her office’s time to advocate for reforming a state law.

In an April 12 letter, Arias — writing on his city council letterhead — argued that Smittcamp used the public’s time and resources to advocate for revising Proposition 47. Voters approved the law in 2014, and the law’s critics contend that it increased homelessness, drug abuse, and retail theft.

“I am referring to you, Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, who has been for months, using public tax dollars to fund her anti-Proposition 47 ballot initiatives in violation of (state law),” Arias wrote.

Smittcamp hosted petition-signing events to change the law. Supporters say they have gathered enough signatures of registered voters to place the measure on the November ballot.

State law generally prohibits the use of public resources for political activities.

In a response letter sent to Arias and Smittcamp, the FPPC said those claims were not within its jurisdiction.

“The actions by the public official listed in your complaint are not governed by the (Political Reform) Act. The complaint failed to establish any violations of the Act; therefore, we will not pursue the matter further,” James Lindsey, chief of the FPPC enforcement agency wrote on April 22.

In an interview with KMJ last week, Smittcamp called Arias’ complaint “quite funny and ironic.”

Arias Alleges Smittcamp Broke Law

Arias and Smittcamp have had a nearly 10-year public battle, each publicly criticizing the other.

Recently, Arias and fellow city councilmember Garry Bredefeld called out Smittcamp for serving on the Valley Children’s Hospital board, and doing nothing about what they called excessive salaries for its top executives. Smittcamp said her board did not set compensation rates.

In his FPPC letter, Arias accused Smittcamp of using public resources.

“Smittcamp has used her office and position to fund these political activities. She has appeared on local radio stations utilizing Fresno County employee staff time and while she was on-the-clock as a Fresno County employee … Moreover, District Attorney Smittcamp has collected and solicited ballot signatures while in her official capacity,” Arias wrote.

Included in the complaint letter was a local news story about Smittcamp holding a signature drive, and a post on the Fresno County District Attorney Facebook page about the March 1 event.

Smittcamp, in her KMJ interviews, said any elected official works 24 hours a day, and the law allows her to advocate for such public safety issues. She denied that she used any public resources or her staff worked on the clock.

After Rejection, Arias Used City Attorney to Seek Records

One day after the FPPC complaint, Arias, through Fresno City Attorney Andrew Janz, sent a Public Records Act request to Smittcamp’s office for documents related to Smittcamp and her staff’s involvement in Prop 47 activities. Among the documents Arias is seeking is timecards of some of Smittcamp’s top staffers and attorneys.

I suggest that your office do the same before any public records are altered or destroyed,” Arias wrote to the FPPC.

Arias mentioned he would instruct Janz to request documents in the April 12 FPPC letter.

Smittcamp and a Fresno city councilmember criticized Arias for using the City Attorney’s Office to request the PRA — a method to request public records available to anyone.

Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi said “it is very unfortunate that the Office of City Attorney is being weaponized.”

Janz’s request on the city attorney letterhead went out April 23.

“I suppose Mr. Janz’s letter was his second attempt to swing at me after the Fair Political Practices Commission told him to pound sand,” Smittcamp said on KMJ.

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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

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