Breaking down Fresno's Bonusgate

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

Don’t forget: there are lingering questions over City Attorney’s strange raise request

All eyes seem to be on the council, the Administration and high-profile department heads such as Dyer.


But it’s City Attorney Doug Sloan and his office that most interest me.

There are two points to make.

First, as Brandau and Brand make clear, Bonusgate, should it rise to something like a constitutional crisis (it has been described as such to me), would pivot on the separation of powers at City Hall.

Keep in mind what started it all. Sloan wanted bonuses for some of his people. He went to City Manager Rudd to ask for them.

But Sloan doesn’t answer to the executive branch. He answers to the legislative branch, as it says in the charter.

Brandau and Brand say any council action will require all future bonuses of significant size to first get council approval. They also said the council will reaffirm what the City Charter says — personnel affairs in the City Attorney’s Office are controlled solely by the council.

My second point is an admission of my confused state of mind.

Why did Sloan go to Rudd in the first place? I’m guessing Sloan knows the City Charter better than anyone. If he wanted bonuses or raises for some of his folks, Sloan could have simply gone to Council President Oliver Baines. That would have got the ball rolling.

Of course, the council might have said no. But if the council said yes, it merely needed a veto-proof five votes to make a mid-year tweak to the budget.

Rudd could have said to Sloan: “Doug, don’t ask me for raises. That’s none of my business. Go to your seven bosses. But, since you are asking me, the answer is no. Don’t blame me if you don’t like the answer or have no idea what’s in the City Charter.”

Something funny is going on here. The public deserves answers to the Sloan questions as well as the Bonusgate questions.

  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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