Hanford · Highlight

Confusion reigns as Brieno rescinds resignation from Hanford City Council

Feb. 16, 2021, 9:33 p.m.: The bizarre ballad of Art Brieno is continuing.

As Hanford City Council members prepared to address a $1.25 million claim for damages waged by Community Development Director Darlene Mata over alleged harassment initiated by Brieno, the former Councilman returned to the dais and announced he was rescinding his resignation.

At the center of the dispute is a difference of opinion about the process of resignation. Brieno’s exit from the Hanford City Council in late January was issued verbally, but never codified in writing.

During public comment at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, City of Hanford legal counsel Ty Mizote announced that conflicting rules over resignation –one which requires written notification to the City Clerk and another serving merely as a vacancy – led to the murky territory the City Council found itself.

The meeting proceeded with no clear resolution to the issue of Brieno’s resignation.

Meanwhile, the government claim for damages tendered by Mata was rejected.

One city council member casting a vote to reject Mata’s seven-figure claim against Brieno’s harassment?

Brieno himself.

Alex Tavlian contributed to this report.

Feb. 16, 2021, 2:02 p.m.: Hanford City Council is set to reject a government claim filed by Community Development Director Darlene Mata over allegations that she was subject to continued harassment from former councilman Art Brieno over the last year. 

The City Council will meet Tuesday evening to vote on the claim as part of its regularly-scheduled council meeting. The staff recommendation to the council is to reject it, which will likely lead Mata to file a lawsuit against the city. 

Mata filed the claim in January and sought a settlement of $1.25 million, as well as Brieno’s immediate resignation and a requirement that all council members receive sexual harassment training. 

Breno resigned in January, citing health reasons ahead of the public exposure of Mata’s claim, meeting one of Mata’s demands. But any financial payout would have to come through a lawsuit or subsequent settlement should the City Council reject the government claim. 

Mata’s claim was filed after the city commissioned an independent investigation to explore her allegations against Brieno. 

Her allegations ranged from Brieno telling others that a man would do a better job than Mata to Brieno disclosing key Mata’s medical records and information to other individuals.

The independent report came back confirming many of Mata’s allegations that Brieno continually harassed her. 

Investigator Daniel Rowley, a Clovis-based attorney, interviewed Brieno and wrote that the former councilman compared Mata to his ex-wife. 

“Mr. Brieno then explained that he was married for 25 years and has gone through a divorce,” Rowley wrote. “He commented that they took vows, participated in counseling over the years and yet she did not keep her vows and they got divorced. He described his ex-wife as being intelligent and professionally successful. He noted that he was a Christian and paraphrased the scripture from the Bible that states that a wife should submit to her husband. Mr. Brieno then went on to state that his wife did not like him helping those who are low income and in need. He noted that his ex-wife became ‘uppity’ about his helping others. 

“He also reported that after they had been apart for 16 months, she wanted to reconcile and get back together, but he was unwilling to do so because he did not trust her. He then went on to state that he does not know Ms. Mata’s ex-husband, but Mr. Brieno is sure that her ex-husband ‘left something in her’ that causes her to ‘take it out’ on men. He stated that he feels sorry for her and does not want to see her get hurt, but they have a job to do. 

“Mr. Brieno then stated that he sees some of the characteristics of his ex-wife in Ms. Mata. He commented that he understood that she was previously married to a Vasquez, but that now she ‘prefers white people.’”

The report also revealed perceived differences that Brieno sees in men and women. 

Rowley wrote that women like to “undermine the other side” when he works with them, and he called Mata a “manipulator.”

Daniel Gligich contributed to this report.

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.