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Politics 101
City of Fresno Partnering with Home Repair Co. That Was Once Fined Millions
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 3 weeks ago on
May 11, 2024

An insurance company sent a solicitation with the city of Fresno's blessing. (GV Wire/David Taub)

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A home repair company is marketing protection for Fresno homeowner sewer and water lines, with data purchased directly from the city.

Despite the warnings of scams in the name of government agencies, the city says this offer is legitimate. Use of the city’s logo is with permission.

“Homeowners are responsible for the utility service lines connecting their homes to the City’s water and sewer systems. If there is a leak or a break in these service lines, it’s the homeowner’s responsibility to arrange and pay for the repair. This program will educate residents about their service line responsibility and will offer an optional emergency repair plan for a fee. Residents are not obligated to enroll in these plans,” the city said in a news release after Politics 101 made inquiries.

The Fresno City Council approved a deal with Utility Service Partners Private Label Inc. for the company — which does business as SLWA Insurance Services — for property owner data, and the right to use the city sunburst logo. SLWA can send up to six mailers a year.

SLWA purchased “ZIP plus 4” data.

“(SLWA) may obtain any name, service address, postal address, and any other appropriate or necessary data for Property Owners in the City (Property Owner Data) from a third party, for use by Company in furtherance of the advertisement, marketing, and sale of the Products and such Property Owner Data shall be the property and Confidential Information of Company,” the contract says.

The Dec. 7, 2023 vote was 7-0 without discussion in a consent agenda item. SLWA paid $615,000 for a five-year contract.

SLWA has similar deals with other cities including Los Angeles, San Diego, and Stockton.

Did the city sell itself short? The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that San Diego got a 12% cut of sales.

UK administrators fined SLWA’s parent company 30 million pounds in 2014 for “serious, systemic and long running failings.” That was the equivalent of $50 million in today’s U.S. currency.

Details About the Service

SLWA offers a benefit up to $8,500 per call for sewer and water lines.

“The water service and sewer/septic lines buried underground are subjected to changing soil conditions, ground shifting and corrosion, which may cause a sudden breakdown, leaving you responsible for the cost of repair or replacement,” the letter said.

Coverage ranges from $9.75 to $16.50 monthly, or $117 to $198 yearly.

The letter includes a phone number to opt out of any future solicitation.

Esparza Said It is Good, Optional Deal

City Councilmember Nelson Esparza proposed the legislation to the city council. He called it a good deal.

“There really is no downside for the city or for our residents. Really, this is an initiative that has all the upside to it, because folks who want to willingly opt in for that additional insurance policy can. Folks who don’t want to, don’t have to take any action,” Esparza said.

Esparza said he is likely to opt-in to the service.

He said he hasn’t received any negative feedback.

Notes from State of the City

My predictions from Mayor Jerry Dyer’s State of the City speech were mostly on target.

Dyer only mentioned “One Fresno” three times in the speech, so I lose there.

He didn’t go into High Speed Rail or improved curbs and gutters. So, an “X” on me.

David Taub’s State of City prediction scorecard. (GV Wire/Paul Marshall)

Other things Dyer did talk about that I missed — the Fresno Hop trolley, all the new affordable housing projects, and the PG&E bashing.

Also seen at the State of the City:

— Is the relationship between the city and Fresno County thawing? Several county representatives attended, including supervisors Steve Brandau, Nathan Magsig and Brian Pacheco, as well as County Administrative Officer Paul Nerland.

Nerland said the city and county are working well on homeless issues. He said there has been positivity in a new tax-sharing agreement. The last deal expired in 2020, making approving new developments in the city tougher.

Nerland said that he’s “more optimistic” than he’s been in a long time.

— Councilmember Luis Chavez attended but did not sit at the table he purchased. He is running for Fresno County Supervisor against Sal Quintero on Nov. 5. Chavez sat at one of Dyer’s tables.

Chavez’s previous campaign manager, Mark Scozzari, is working for Quintero. Chavez is entrusting his victory to veteran strategist Jason Carns.

Who Took Fresno Trip to Japan?

It took more than six weeks for the city of Fresno to finally answer who traveled in the delegation to Japan.

GV Wire reported on the trip the week of March 25 led by Mayor Jerry Dyer. City councilmembers Nelson Esparza, Tyler Maxwell, and Luis Chavez also traveled.

The goal was to learn about how High Speed Rail stations integrated with neighborhoods, and possibly bringing those styles back to downtown Fresno.

But who else went? The city stalled on an answer, once again questioning any commitment to transparency and open government. After filing a Public Records Act request in early April, the city revealed the rest of the travel party on Wednesday:

  • Celida Garcia Lopez, Esparza’s district director
  • Omar Hernandez, Esparza’s field representative
  • Laura Garcia, Maxwell’s chief of staff
  • Jacqueline Rubio, Councilmember Miguel Arias’ communications director
  • Jordan Sanchez, Dyer’s deputy chief of staff
  • Jim Verros, then-senior advisor to the City Council

The city has not yet provided the requested expense records.

“The City has reviewed your request and has determined the City is unable to disclose responsive records at this time, as the City has not completed the reimbursement process. The City’s Finance Department has not received the credit card statements or reimbursement requests related to the Japan trip that took place in March of 2024,” the City Attorney’s office said.

No one at City Hall wanted to answer the question after the trip on who attended. The mayor’s spokesperson referred the issue to Verros, who in turn instructed GV Wire to file a PRA with the City Attorney’s office. Verros worked for the city council at the time — he has since moved to the Public Utilities department — and would answer to the city council president.

The law requires a government agency to respond within 10 days to a PRA, acknowledging receipt of the request, but not necessarily provide the information.

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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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