Business · Fresno

Amid riots, Fresno Building Healthy Communities chief tweets “Burn it down.”

Fresno community activist Sandra Celedon tweeted her idea of Building Healthy Communities – it included a picture of a Minneapolis police precinct burning down Thursday night.

Celedon is the president and CEO of the nonprofit Fresno Building Healthy Communities, a community action group .

On Thursday, Celedon retweeted a video of the Minneapolis Police’s Third Precinct on fire amid the protests and riots taking place in the city following the killing of George Floyd.

She added her own comments, which read, “Burn it down. #blacklivesmatter No justice, no peace. Enough is enough.”

Fresno Building Healthy Communities was founded in 2010 as an arm of the multi-billion-dollar California Endowment. The Fresno organization would serve as one of 14 such outposts across the Golden State to promote healthy living and community action during a decade-long project.

The California Endowment itself was launched as a result of a legal settlement by Blue Cross of California following the insurer’s 1996 acquisition of for-profit Wellpoint Health Networks.

The nonprofit – headquartered in Los Angeles – began with $900 million in seed funding from Blue Cross. As of the organization’s most-recent tax return, its health policy-driven warchest sits at $3.7 billion in net assets.

In the decade since founding Fresno BHC, the local organization has become a key player in Fresno’s ever-growing social justice landscape – lending its voice to a bevy of healthcare specific and related issues before Fresno’s city and county governments.

Perhaps the most visible example was Fresno’s 2018 failed parks tax initiative, Measure P. Celedon – and Fresno BHC by extension – served as frontline leaders along with former Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and former Assemblyman Juan Arambula.

Over the course of the campaign, based on a review of campaign finance documents, Fresno Building Healthy Communities received at least $19,064 for consulting and petitioning services to the Yes on Measure P committee.

Celedon, separately, earned $39,600 as a consultant to the Measure P committee.

Campaign finance filings for that committee also note that Fresno Building Healthy Communities billed $46,564.00 for petitioning services. However, subsequent filings show the entire five-figure amount deducted without a payments – suggesting an accounting or invoicing error.

Since the measure’s defeat, Fresno Building Healthy Communities remains a party in a lawsuit contesting the election results – arguing that the threshold for approval of the parks tax was merely 50 percent plus one vote rather than two-thirds majority.

The Sun reached out to The California Endowment for comment on Celedon’s statements.

Sarah Reyes, the managing director for communications for The California Endowment and a former Valley Assemblywoman, declined to comment – citing that Celedon is not employed by the Endowment.

In 2017, Fresno Building Healthy Communities spun off into its own 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation.

However, the California Endowment continues to publicize Fresno Building Healthy Communities as an affiliate in its 10-year, statewide Building Healthy Communities program.

Separately, California Endowment tax returns from tax year 2017 show a total of $159,750 in direct contributions to Fresno BHC.

When pressed about The California Endowment’s financial support and direct affiliation with Fresno Building Healthy Communities, Reyes again declined to comment.

Following The Sun’s inquiries to The California Endowment on Friday, Celedon privatized her Twitter account, meaning only approved followers could view her Tweets.

Sources who were able to view her tweets told The Sun that Celedon also deleted the tweet.

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.