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‘Can’t You Understand English?’ Supervisor Asked Elected Leader

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Fresno County Assessor-Recorder Paul Dictos (right) is accusing Supervisor Buddy Mendes of racially-tinged remarks. (GV Wire Composite/David Rodriguez)
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Fresno County’s elected official charged with setting property taxes and handling vital records is accusing a member of the Board of Supervisors of making racially-tinged remarks at a meeting last month.

Dictos, first elected as assessor-recorder in 2010, asked the Board of Supervisors for an extended leave to vacation in Greece. His request wasn’t granted at the Aug. 22 meeting, and the discussion turned testy, with Supervisor Buddy Mendes asking Dictos, “Can’t you understand English?”

“(Mendes’s comment) is a racial comment,” Dictos, a Greek immigrant with a noticeable accent, told GV Wire two weeks later. “I love and respect Supervisor Mendes, but this kind of talk is not appropriate on the dais.”

Asked to reply Tuesday, Mendes called Dictos an insane goofball. Mendes then literally swore off any follow-up questions, using four-letter terminology.

A Request Leads to Testy Conversation

Dictos said he asked for permission as a precaution. He only planned to be away for three weeks; state law allows absences away from the state for 30 days unless it is for official business, or with permission from the Board of Supervisors. Dictos sought permission in case there were travel complications — anywhere from COVID or an international invasion.

No supervisor made the motion, so the item did not move forward. Supervisors Steve Brandau and Nathan Magsig said if something really did happen, they would call a special meeting to grant Dictos extended leave.

Dictos complained about not being able to take the vacation like he wanted. That led to the acrimonious rebuke from Mendes.

“We’re done with this deal,” Mendes said. His microphone was not on, but his audio could still be heard on the county’s video of the meeting.

“What does that mean in English?” Dictos asked.

The exchange continued.

“You can just do whatever you want. Weren’t you listening? Can’t you understand English?” Mendes said.

“No, I need a translator, sometimes. What’s the problem?” Dictos said.

By the way, Dictos is running for the District 2 seat on the board in a race that also includes incumbent Steve Brandau and Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld.

Watch the Video

A Cold Relationship

County observers should not be surprised by the latest episode; Dictos and the board have had a cold relationship.

Dictos has long complained about his budget, established by the board. He also complained about the board’s refusal earlier this year to raise fees on certain documents, with the funds to be used to redact old racial covenants in real estate contracts.

Sources tell GV Wire that Dictos has a way to “get under people’s skin.” He has not made friends in the ag community either because of his reputation for re-evaluating agricultural properties at higher property tax rates.

There have also been rumblings about Dictos’s passive-aggressive leadership style.

New Fresno Hall of Records Security Measures

Fresno County engaged in relatively new security measures for those attending Board of Supervisor meetings. Entry was restricted to just the front door on Tuesday. In the past, a side door was also available.

Security guards used a magnetic wand to screen entrants. One staircase was designated for traveling up, and one for coming down. There were also lines for the elevator and to enter the board chambers.

“Due to a precipitous increase in attendance at the Board of Supervisors meetings, both the alcove and hallway on the third floor have been beyond capacity which are a public safety concern. The additional security and crowd control measures help maintain room capacity to ensure public safety,” county spokeswoman Sonja Dosti tells Politics 101.

Other sources told Politics 101 that the measures were in reaction to an incident at the Aug. 8 meeting, where members of the SEIU union caused a disruption. The meeting was halted for five minutes.

Tuesday’s meeting was the second time enhanced measures were used.

“We expect to employ similar measures in the future as the attendance remains at current levels or increases,” Dosti said.

A sign at the Fresno County Hall of Records notifies entrants of enhanced security. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Keppler Stepping Down from Maddy Institute

Mark Keppler

After nearly 20 years of leading the Maddy Institute, a political think tank housed at Fresno State, Mark Keppler is stepping down.

“It seemed that this was the right time to pass the baton so that our new Executive Director could be involved in (a new major strategic plan) implementation from the beginning and see it through to completion,” Keppler wrote in an email.

While the institute is based at Fresno State, it collaborates with Cal State Bakersfield, Stanislaus State, and UC Merced. It is named after the late former state Sen. Ken Maddy, who was a Republican known for his political pragmatism and ability to cut deals benefitting the Valley.

The organization hosts speakers to discuss public policy, hosts debates, and has a successful internship program — placing college students in public service to work with national, state, and local elected officials.

Fresno State is now looking for a new director, with a base pay of up to $144,000 a year. The job announcement can be found here.

 

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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