New revelations of financial misconduct by Fresno Unified Trustee Terry Slatic are arriving just as the ousted school board member is set to leave office.
Slatic is alleged to have underreported a gift on state-mandated ethics disclosure forms.
The gift in question: a pricey meal – paid for by Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson – made more expensive by a set of lavish purchases by north Fresno trustee.
The revelation came amid a Fresno County District Attorney investigation recently referred to the California Fair Political Practices Commission. News of the probe was first reported by GV Wire.
During the annual California School Board Association conference on Dec. 2, 2021, Nelson took the six board members – former Trustee Carol Mills had not yet been replaced following her death – to dinner at the Fogo De Chao Brazilian Steakhouse in San Diego.
None of the trustees reported the dinner, which was valued at $195 a piece, on state ethics forms.
All the while, Slatic racked up a bill that cost Nelson more than $1,200.
Following the dinner, Nelson reported Slatic’s actions to the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office’s Public Integrity Unit.
According to a complaint filed by Senior Deputy District Attorney Victor Lai to the FPPC in August, Nelson has bought dinner for the school district’s trustees for the past five years.
Nelson said the bill had been inflated in years past due to off-menu orders and expensive alcohol, so he tried to set up a group rate with a fixed price menu at the Brazilian steakhouse.
“What was of particular interest to this office was that the facts as presented were that Trustee Slatic arrived at the restaurant prior to everyone else and arranged with restaurant staff to have any alcohol ordered by the group to be run up as food – in this case, all alcohol was initially billed as Tomahawk steaks,” the complaint reads.
Slatic and his guest ordered two Wagyu Ribeye steaks at $145 each when the standard dinner was $95 per person. They also ordered multiple alcoholic drinks and bottles of wine.
“When the bill was brought to Superintendent Nelson, because of Trustee Slatic’s arrangements with restaurant staff beforehand, it reflected no alcohol, but instead included 17 Tomahawk steaks – none of which had actually been ordered and consumed, as the other dinner participants had stuck with the set dinner menu, and Trustee Slatic and his guest had ordered the Wagyu Ribeye steaks,” the complaint reads.
Nelson questioned the bill and initially declined to pay for the steaks that had not been ordered. Slatic told Nelson that he directed the restaurant to ring up all alcohol as food and did not provide a further explanation.
Nelson requested that the bill was changed to accurately reflect the order, which included:
- Four Chopin 80 vodka drinks: $58 ($14.50 ea.)
- Don Julio 1942 Tequila drink: $33
- Two bottles of Silver Oak Napa Cabernet: $404 ($202 per bottle)
- Two bottles of Opus One Meritage: $870 ($435 per bottle)
As an elected official, Slatic is required to report all gifts of $50 or more.
After none of the board members reported the dinner in their Form 700 filing, the district attorney’s office sent a letter to each trustee to remind them of their obligation to report.
Slatic and the other trustees reported the dinner at the prodding of the district attorney’s office, but Slatic reported it at $195.
The district attorney’s office calculated Slatic’s bill to be $1,251, nearly $1,000 greater than he reported and over the $520 annual gift limit that the trustees are allowed to receive.
In its investigation, the district attorney’s office found that Nelson paid a total bill of $3,542.82.
Along with Nelson, the attendees were Deputy Superintendent Misty Her, Chief of Staff David Chavez, Assistant Chief of Staff Patrick Jensen, Trustee Veva Islas and her spouse, Trustee Valerie Davis and her sister, Trustee Keshia Thomas, Trustee Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas, Trustee Claudia Cazares and Slatic and his guest, who was a Marine Reserve member who showed up in full uniform, according to the investigation.
“Who has that type of audacity to do something like that on somebody’s [sic] else’s dime? It’s totally understandable you want a four-hundred-dollar bottle of wine, like purchase it yourself, here is my credit card, let me pay for it and you are on your way,” Islas told the district attorney’s office according to the report.
“What became outrageous was that he did that without consulting Bob and then he did it in such an underhanded way that my response to Bob was please don’t let him get away with this, please pursue this and make sure that this is corrected.”
Islas also said that Slatic had ordered “extraordinarily” at the dinners in previous years, including about $1,000 in alcoholic beverages in 2018.
The FPPC said in a letter to the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office in August that it will investigate the matter.