Granite Park Operator Adds New Accusations in Lawsuit vs City, Elected Leaders
A federal judge essentially hit the “reset” button in a lawsuit against the city of Fresno filed by a local businessman.
Monday, Terance Frazier was granted permission to amend his lawsuit, adding new charges against the city and several current and former elected leaders. Because an amended complaint of the lawsuit was accepted, the city’s request for dismissal on the prior version of the suit became moot. Federal judge Ana de Alba denied the city’s existing motion to dismiss.
However, the city could still file a new motion to dismiss on the amended complaint.
“Plaintiffs are hopeful that the latest events will signal the beginning of progress toward resolution of the matter,” Frazier’s attorney Kevin Little told GV Wire.
The city has not responded to GV Wire’s request for comment.
The second amended complaint by Frazier includes accusations of breach of contract, discriminatory business dealings, and interfering with free speech rights. This is on top of existing complaints of retaliation and racial discrimination.
Named defendants include current Mayor Jerry Dyer, councilmen Garry Bredefeld and Mike Karbassi; former mayor Lee Brand; Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp; and several current and former members of the Dyer and Brand administrations.
All the city employees and elected leaders are being defended by an attorney contracted and paid for by the city. A defense attorney for Smittcamp is not listed in the court docket.
Audit Leads to Lawsuit
Through his nonprofit Central Valley Community Sports Foundation, Frazier secured a contract in 2015 to operate the city-owned recreation facility on Cedar Avenue, between Ashlan and Gettysburg avenues. The city would pay CVCSF a $150,000 annual fee, and in return, the nonprofit would operate and improve the rundown park.
When Frazier asked the city in 2018 to double the fee, the city conducted an audit. The city publicly released a version of the audit in 2019.
Frazier said the audit was premature, inaccurate, and released unfairly.
“Since its January 2019 release to the public, the draft audit report has had very negative economic impacts on Mr. Frazier, and on CVCSF. Mr. Frazier has been denied loans for other projects based upon the bad press associated with the draft audit repot [sic],” the lawsuit states.
Frazier filed a federal lawsuit in July 2020. The case is still pending, with the next court date August 24, 2023 for a scheduling conference.
Settlement Talks Scuttled
Several times, the Fresno City Council considered settling the lawsuit. A vote was scheduled in June 2021, but permanently delayed when Smittcamp sent a letter, warning that an investigation was underway whether councilmembers violated the state’s open meeting law regarding the Granite Park settlement.
In March 2022, Smittcamp cleared the councilmembers but also announced that former congressman TJ Cox — a onetime partner with Frazier in the nonprofit — faced a federal investigation. Later that year, Cox was arrested for campaign fraud among other charge. His case is still pending.
Complicating matters was Frazier’s relationship with then-councilwoman Esmeralda Soria. During the time of settlement discussions, they were engaged. They have since said they are married. Voters elected Soria to the state Assembly in November 2022. Soria recused herself on all votes related to the Granite Park matter.