Breaking down Fresno's Bonusgate

George Hostetter dives into City Hall amid Mayor Swearengin’s Bonusgate crisis, providing the backstory & questions from the fallout.

And what’s going to happen to Swearengin’s legacy?

Bonusgate a sign that Swearengin is just another pol?


Don’t get me wrong. It’s no sin to be a run-of-the-mill politician. A good case can be made that American government works best when its elected officials play by the old-fashioned rules.

If you’ve got the levers of power in hand, you reward your supporters and punish your opponents. That’s why the voters put you in that position, right?

Swearengin has just 14 months left in office. The next two months are pretty much shot with Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year. All of City Hall’s power brokers kick back during July and August. Then comes the last two months of 2016 – Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year.

Perhaps Swearengin has only another hard months of taxing work at City Hall. And, as we know from the 2014 election season, she never wanted to be here at this time. Her heart was set on being state controller as 2015 wound down.

A new mayor arrives in the first week of January 2017. Mayors always clean house. They do so without mercy in the Mayor’s Office. They do so for the most part among department heads.

Since patronage is the name of the game, why wouldn’t Swearengin hand out a bunch of money to her loyal followers? They’re all short-timers anyway.

It’s next to impossible to finish a second term as Fresno mayor on an upbeat note.

Dan Whitehurst didn’t even complete his second term. He was so bored he decided to resign and go to Harvard. Alan Autry finished his second term with a public send-off at the New Exhibit Hall that was noteworthy only for the total lack of enthusiasm in the small crowd.  And now Ashley Swearengin prepares to head out the door by quietly dispensing the spoils of victory found in any big city mayoral office.

“Until you’ve lost your reputation,” “Gone With The Wind” author Margaret Mitchell said, “you never realize what it burden it was or what freedom really is.”

Termed-out mayors on their last legs discover this truth.

  1. The point is that these payoffs have been “dark money,” dark taxpayers’ money lavished on favorites furtively, well out of taxpayers’ eyes and knowledge. AKA personal slush fund

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