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Drama Between City, County Ignites With Fresno Medical Lab Ordinance

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The Fresno County Counsel's Office sent letters to healthcare providers about potential impacts if an ordinance authored by Fresno City Councilmembers Garry Bredefeld, left, Miguel Arias, center, and Nelson Esparza passed. (GV Wire File)
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The Fresno City Council voted Thursday to “bring greater accountability and transparency” to medical laboratories in the hope of preventing an illegal medical lab like the one in Reedley from opening in the city.

In response to the measure, an attorney in the Fresno County Counsel’s Office wrote letters to several healthcare providers discussing the impacts, if any, it might have on them.

The updated code requires labs that have infectious diseases on site to notify the city of their operations. The city would then notify businesses and residents within 1,000 feet of the proposed site. It also requires labs to have all state, federal, and local licensing.

Much like with other conditional use permits, the public would have a chance to give input, according to Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias.

The measure comes on the tail of the illegal medical lab discovered in Reedley that had infectious diseases such as COVID-19, HIV, and malaria. The lab had moved to Reedley after closing in Fresno.

Nelson Esparza, co-author of the measure, called it a “common sense” update.

Councilmembers approved the item 6-0, with Councilmember Mike Karbassi absent from the dais. The item will come back for an affirming vote on a future agenda.

“We can bring greater accountability and transparency and safety in the future to the citizens of Fresno should we encounter another Reedley lab,” said Councilmember Garry Bredefeld during the meeting.

Back-and-Forth Accusations

Back-and-forth accusations between the councilmen and county officials preceded Thursday’s vote.

Arias and Bredefeld held two news conferences during the week, advocating for the resolution while criticizing county leaders. Wednesday, the members distributed a redacted email to the media, sent from a deputy county attorney to United Health Centers.

“It appears that (the city resolution) would have an effect on every UHC laboratory within the city limits. I’d like to discuss this if you are available,” the email sent Tuesday at 1:10 p.m. said.

The email came from Rachel Madden, a deputy county counsel, who previously served as an attorney for Sante Health Systems. She sent similar emails to at least seven different local medical organizations about the ordinance.

Arias and Bredefeld vigorously denied the ordinance would affect existing medical facilities. They said the county was peddling misinformation.

Both Bredefeld and Arias are running for supervisorial seats in the March 2024 ballot.

County Attorney Responds

Fresno County Counsel Daniel Cederborg defended the emails sent from his office.

“This press conference was just an attack on an individual attorney that’s doing her job for the safety of the public. And I find that, you know, to be troublesome, at least,” Cederborg said. “There’s no effort to intimidate anybody or to unstabilize anybody.”

Arias suggested the county contact the Fresno City Attorney’s office. Cederborg said his office did. An email provided by the county showed the county sending the Fresno City Attorney’s office an inquiry Tuesday around 2:30 p.m. However, this was after Madden reached out to the medical groups.

“I don’t know what the city concern is with having more transparency about the ordinance, being distributed to people that it might apply to,” Cederborg said. “It’s not political activity to inquire just, hey, what’s the impact of this to see whether there might be an impact on the healthcare system in Fresno County as a whole.”

(GV Wire reporter Edward Smith contributed to this story.)

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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