Referring to them as ever-growing “slush funds,” Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld is officially requesting that the City Council initiate an independent audit of itself over the individual spending of each district’s discretionary budget for the last three years.
Bredefeld placed the request on the agenda for Thursday’s scheduled council meeting.
Additionally, Bredefeld also placed an item on the agenda that would revoke the city-issued credit cards to each council member and their staff.
Bredefeld held a press conference last week to point out how four of his colleagues – Esmeralda Soria, Miguel Arias, Tyler Maxwell and Nelson Esparza, who he calls the Gang of Four – spend the $700,000 allocated to their respective district budgets.
He accused the Gang of Four of using district funds for personal expenses, such as restaurants, and provided hundreds of pages of invoices to back up his claims.
“Councilmembers have an obligation to be good stewards of the public’s money, and District funds should be spent in the interest of the public, and not for any personal or political use or gain,” the resolution regarding the audit reads.
Last week, Bredefeld called the Gang of Four “dishonest and unethical incumbents” and said they can pay for their lunches on their own dime.
“These folks have forgotten who they work for,” Bredefeld said at the time. “They think they were elected kings and queens and that this is their personal slush funds. It is not. This is the taxpayer money. We ought to respect it. We ought to respect them, and that’s not happening. I’m not going to sit silently as this continues to go on.”
Soria and Arias combined for over $14,000 in restaurant and meal charges last year, which included a $991.04 expense by Soria at Max’s Bistro.
Bredefeld said he refused to take a city credit card and is the lone councilmember to have done so.
His resolution would make it so all expenses that would normally be charged to the credit cards would be reimbursed to the councilmembers once they provide the city controller and city manager with “complete and accurate documentation of the public purpose for the expenditure.”
“[C]redit cards are merely issued for convenience, and without credit cards, expenses would still be subject to reimbursement upon providing accurate documentation to the Controller,” the resolution regarding the credit cards reads.
Any councilmember can remove the items from the agenda, which could then only be kept on with a majority vote.
Last week, Bredefeld said he expects the items to be removed.
If the items are removed, Bredefeld said he would look to pay for the audit out of his district funds. He can spend up to $50,000 at one time without needing to receive approval from the council.