The Firebaugh city clerk, charged with four felony counts of election fraud, made her first appearance in court Wednesday morning.
Amanda Fleming did not enter a plea at her arraignment in front of Fresno Superior Court Judge Timothy Kams. Fleming’s attorney, Roger Bonakdar, filed a demurrer — a motion to essentially dismiss the case.
The Public Integrity Unit of the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office charged Fleming in January with four felony counts including knowingly using a fraudulent address to not only run for office but to vote as well.
Fleming is charged under her legal name, Amanda Pearl Speakes. She uses Fleming because that is the name more familiar in Firebaugh, she said.
“We don’t believe that the case has merit. We do believe that justice will prevail and that Ms. Speakes will be cleared of these erroneous allegations. I do think that there are some real substantive issues in the case,” Bonakdar said after the scheduled arraignment.
Prosecutor Victor Lai offered no comment.
Fleming, a 40-year-old Republican, ran unopposed for the city clerk position in November 2022. The office is largely ceremonial, paying $25 a meeting. The city has a full-time deputy city clerk who handles most of the day-to-day operations.
Even with the pending charges, Fleming remains on the job.
The case returns to court on May 18.
Where Does Fleming Live?
The crux of the case centers around Fleming’s residency.
An elected official of Firebaugh needs to live within the city limits.
Fleming has been registered at an address on O Street in Firebaugh since 2016, election records show. It is the same address as the Fleming family’s business, Ag and Industrial Supply.
The DA’s office accuses Fleming of being a resident of Madera County and illegally voting twice in 2022 in Fresno County elections. She is also charged with using the address within the city to run for clerk, knowing she actually lived outside the city limits.
“I have always had that as an address,” Fleming told GV Wire about her Firebaugh address. Neither she, nor her attorney, answered whether she lives within the city limits now.
“I can tell you that on every paper that she’s submitted, it bears the city name of Firebaugh,” Bonakdar said.
Bonakdar said his client was in “absolute compliance with elections code.”
“When the light of day is shone on it, it will see that there’s nothing improper that occurred here other than, I believe, perhaps the District Attorney’s office being misled about a few things before the filing,” Bonakdar said.
Fleming allegedly lives in Eastside Acres, just east of the San Joaquin River, city councilman Brady Jenkins told GV Wire when charges were filed in January. Not only does the river serve as the eastern border for the city of Firebaugh, but it also is the dividing line between Fresno and Madera counties.
When the California Highway Patrol pulled Fleming over in 2019 for using a cell phone while driving, the citation listed the O Street address.
The Firebaugh zoning map designates the address of Ag and Industrial Supply as a “central trading district.”
A preliminary reading of state law indicates using a business address to register to vote is legal under California’s election code.