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Councilmembers Want Answers on Lawsuit. We Have Them.
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 2 weeks ago on
May 28, 2024
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Fresno City Councilmembers Luis Chavez (left) and Garry Bredefeld want answers on the county's failed lawsuit against them. They held a news conference, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, outside the county Hall of Records. (GV Wire/David Taub)

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Fresno City Councilmembers Garry Bredefeld and Luis Chavez are running in separate races for county supervisor. They recently won a legal fight to transfer campaign money from their respective city accounts to county accounts.

The county sued the pair in 2023, arguing that the councilmembers’ attempt to transfer more than $30,000 violated the cap the county set. Bredefeld and Chavez won, and claimed the whole lawsuit was unfair, a waste of taxpayer money, and an “incumbent protection scheme.” A Fresno judge awarded the pair $72,000 in legal fees.

The councilmembers have held multiple news conferences on the issue; the latest came Tuesday morning.

“Unethical politicians often prioritize their job security above all else. Yet even with this focus on self-preservation, many resist the temptation to misuse taxpayer dollars to stifle political opposition,” Bredefeld said at a news conference next to the county’s Hall of Records.

This time, the pair filed a Public Records Act request, wanting to know how much the county paid for outside attorneys. The county has 10 days to respond as to when it may produce an answer.

But the councilmembers won’t have to wait that long.

Fresno County Counsel Daniel Cederborg said the county spent $132,000 with southern California-based Best Best & Krieger. He did not have an exact estimate on county staff time spent on the lawsuit, but said he spent “a good number of hours.”

Bredefeld and Chavez also wanted to know who initiated the lawsuit.

“The county decided to weaponize their county taxpayer-paid legal office for political purposes. That is something very dangerous and unprecedented,” Chavez said.

Cederborg: I Advised the Board to Sue

Cederborg said he advised the Board of Supervisors to sue to help clarify if spending caps applied to transfers.

“This call was based on my advice, not pressure from the Board of Supervisors,” Cederborg said, “… to make sure that everybody was treated the same and was operating under the same rules. And that left only a declaratory relief action as the only option for us.”

Bredefeld said the county could have sought free legal advice from the state Attorney General.

“This didn’t have to cost to taxpayers one dime,” Bredefeld said.

Not so simple, Cederborg replied. Seeking advice could take up to a year, he said, jeopardizing not having an immediate answer during campaign season.

The county initially appealed the ruling to Fresno County County Superior Court, Cederborg said, but withdrew the appeal last week.

Chavez called Cederborg’s advice “legal malpractice.”

“I object to that,” Cederborg said. He said there was no court interpretation on the specific question if limits applied to transfers.

Transparency?

Bredefeld and Chavez mentioned “transparency” seven times in 17 minutes.

The supervisors discussed the lawsuit in closed session on Feb. 28, 2023, and publicly reported the vote to sue — 3-0 with Buddy Mendes, Brian Pacheco, and Nathan Magsig in favor. The two incumbents Bredefeld and Chavez are challenging — Steve Brandau and Sal Quintero respectively — recused from voting.

Meanwhile, the city is suing the county on a separate issue — over the county’s general plan. Bredefeld and Chavez voted in favor in a 4-3 vote announced in March.

While the councilmembers wanted to know the supervisors’ reasoning for filing the campaign finance lawsuit, Chavez was less willing to share his reasons for backing the city’s lawsuit over the general plan.

“Obviously there’s going to be litigation with county and city. We’ll do that on its merits. But we obviously can’t comment on what that is,” Chavez said. He said he couldn’t talk about what was discussed in closed session.

The difference, Chavez said, is one case is ongoing, and the other is settled.

Bredefeld was more forthcoming.

“You can’t have an (environmental impact report) 25 years old and work off of that,” he said.

Bredefeld raised $756,792 through Feb. 17, with $346,025 cash on hand. Brandau raised $310,905 with $46,674 cash on hand for the same period.

Chavez raised $130,621, with $1,506 cash on hand. Quintero raised $185,367, with $80,975 cash on hand.

Internal Services Director Quits, Grand Jury Criticized Department

In perhaps a bit of coincidental timing, the Fresno County Internal Services director quit two weeks before a Fresno County Grand Jury report criticized the county’s handling of real estate.

Robert Bash resigned on May 1, effective July 31, a county spokesperson said. In the interim, Bash is on leave. He led the internal services department for more than 10 years, and worked for the county nearly 18.

In a brief interview, Bash said the Grand Jury report had nothing to do with his resignation, and he is “looking at several things.”

Ed Hill, the county’s chief operating officer, now serves as the interim director.

Internal services handles real estate, security, facility services, purchasing, and other areas for the county.

Robert Bash speaks to the Fresno County Supervisors in January. (Screenshot)

Grand Jury Report Critical of County

A May 16 Grand Jury report criticized the county for not having a complete and easily searchable list of property holdings.

The Grand Jury found inconsistencies with lists provided by Internal Services, and those listed in the assessor rolls. The report also criticized the county’s tracking of properties and handling of vacant or unused properties.

The Grand Jury recommendations included developing a real estate strategy, fix its real estate database to better search and track properties, and develop a policy on how to dispose unneeded properties.

In a response sent to the media, the county said it has been “actively addressing” the Grand Jury’s recommendations.

Parlier Fires City Manager

Parlier terminated city manager Sonia Hall at its April 18 meeting on a 5-0 vote in closed session. City councilmembers did not provide a reason for the firing.

City council agendas show Jan. 18 as Hall’s last meeting, taking a leave of absence in the interim. She had served as city manager since 2019.

The city council named police chief David Cerda as acting city manager in a dual role. The body also is considering hiring a search firm for help finding a permanent replacement.

Hall had no comment when reached by Politics 101.

Hall’s predecessor, Antonio Gastelum, is currently on federal trial, accused of 12 counts of fraud.

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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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