Council President Responds to Extortion Charge, Rejects Calls to Resign
Fresno City Council President Nelson Esparza addressed the extortion charge filed against him at Thursday’s city council meeting. It was the first time Esparza spoke publicly.
“The people’s business will continue here at City Hall uninterrupted. Those who are in tune with City Hall beyond the headlines, they all know that a lot of great things are coming out of this building and happening for our community. Those things will certainly continue to happen.
“Taking into consideration that time and process will demonstrate that there is, has been no wrongdoing in this building. Taking into consideration that residents in my district have sent me to City Hall with a mandate two times over, I do fully intend to fulfill my commitment to serving my district throughout the rest of this term as well as the next one,” Esparza said from the dais.
Esparza said he has no plans to step down as council president. He overwhelmingly won re-election for a second term as District 7 representative last month.
Monday, the Fresno County District Attorney’s office charged Esparza with two criminal counts — including attempted extortion — for allegedly pressuring then-city attorney Douglas Sloan to work only for certain city councilmembers.
Related Story: Fresno Council President Charged with Felony Over Alleged Extortion
Esparza denied the accusation when it was made public by colleague Garry Bredefeld in May.
Arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 20.
The city council discussed in closed session potential litigation from Esparza against the city but did not announce any action. Esparza has not responded to requests from Politics 101 to explain what the potential litigation may be.
Also in Politics 101…
- Update on Mike Karbassi’s lawsuit against Esmeralda Soria.
- New hires and transfers in the city of Fresno.
Karbassi Seeking $4.5 Million in Damages
An update to Fresno City Councilman Mike Karbassi’s defamation lawsuit against colleague Esmeralda Soria — he is seeking $4.5 million in damages.
Both councilmembers ran for an Assembly seat covering parts of Fresno, as well as Madera and Merced counties. Karbassi alleged Soria defamed him in a campaign mailer, insinuating that Karbassi physically assaulted a student.
In reality, a consultant Karbassi hired in 2019 was guilty of the assault — former city councilmember Brian Calhoun.
Karbassi’s lawyer, Brian Whelan, attempted to file a default judgment against Soria, because she had not responded in the mandated 30 days required by law.
But, technical errors in the paperwork — two times in a row — have slowed the case.
After this story initially published, the court finally accepted Karbassi’s third attempt to file for “request for entry of default.”
Karbassi should not be counting the money yet. A hearing is still scheduled for Oct. 6.
Soria garnered the most votes in the June primary, 40%, and will face former Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin in the November election. Karbassi finished fourth in a four-person race.
A message to Soria’s attorney and campaign team were not returned.
Related Story: Karbassi Files Defamation Suit Over Negative Mailer
Familiar Faces in New Places
At Thursday’s Fresno City Council meeting, Ruthie Quinto was introduced as a new assistant city manager.
Quinto left Fresno Unified — where she served as deputy superintendent/chief financial officer — in 2020 under questionable circumstances. The exact reason of her departure or why she was paid a package to leave, was never publicly disclosed by the district. Quinto did tell GV Wire at the time that she left for family reasons.
Quinto worked in prior administrations at the city of Fresno prior to moving to FUSD.
In her new role, Quinto will earn a $200,000 base salary.
On Wednesday, the Fresno County Transportation Authority approved the Measure C spending plan. The nine-member board has been one short for nearly 20 years, until now.
Mayor Jerry Dyer announced he will nominate disability advocate Sarah Harris to the position. The FCTA slot is reserved for a public member to be jointly picked by the cities of Fresno and Clovis.
Arlene Medina, a longtime community service officer in the police department, is transferring to the Office of Independent Review. She will serve as the community coordinator. The Fresno City Council honored Medina Thursday with a proclamation.[Note: this item has been updated to clarify the nature of Quinto’s departure from FUSD in 2020.]