Breaking down Fresno's Bonusgate

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

Bruce Rudd’s seat is warm, but it could be much hotter soon

If the City Council is truly incensed over the entire bonus issue, then the city manager is toast.


In that case, the only question about Bruce Rudd’s long and worthy career with the city of Fresno would be whether the end comes while Swearengin is still in office or in the early months of her successor’s term in 2017.

Bad blood between the council and administration is not a pretty sight.

Think back to fall 2000.

Jeff Reid had recently resigned as city manager to return to his legal practice. Mayor Jim Patterson (termed out in January 2001) strongly opposed the downtown stadium deal being pitched in part by Fresno Diamond Group. A veto-proof council majority supported what came to be the deal. Both mayoral candidates – Alan Autry and Dan Whitehurst – supported the final deal.

The result was a series of council meetings during which the city manager’s office essentially ceased to exist when it came to council-administration politics.

The council super-majority loathed Patterson. Patterson returned the sentiment. Interim City Manager Andy Souza was duty-bound to serve the mayor, which he did admirably. At the same time, Souza knew the score. He wanted to have some role in an Autry or a Whitehurst administration. So, Souza on the dais was mighty careful about how hard he pushed against a council that found itself alone in the saddle.

Patterson didn’t try to mend fences. He had only a few months left in office.

Swearengin has 14 months to go. If the bonus stuff is just a tempest in a teapot, then she can stay tough. Rudd can go to council meetings knowing the mayor has his back.

But if a council super-majority stays angry, then Swearengin spends the next 14 months on the sideline polishing her resume or making nice with the council. If she chooses the latter course, then someone has to take the fall for the hurt feelings.

Does that council super-majority want to spend the next 14 months listening to Rudd, deemed to be at the heart of the bonus fiasco, drone on and on about Swearengin’s demands?

Probably not.

How does “Interim City Manager Renena Smith” sound?

  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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