City Hall abuzz over Swearengin resignation rumors

City Hall is abuzz over rumors that Mayor Ashley Swearengin could leave long before January 2017.


City Council President Paul Caprioglio is well aware that he might temporarily become Fresno’s chief executive.


Caprioglio on Thursday said he, too, has heard the City Hall chatter that Mayor Ashley Swearengin might resign in the coming weeks to take another job.

Section 305 of the City Charter states that should there be a vacancy in the office of mayor,”the Council shall appoint the Mayor Pro Tempore as Mayor for the period of time from the date of appointment to the date the newly elected Mayor assumes office and the Council shall call a special election for filling the vacancy, which election shall be called within thirty days after such vacancy occurs, provided that if such vacancy occurs within one hundred twenty days, but not less than eighty-eight days from the date of a municipal primary nominating election at which the office of mayor would regularly be filled, the City Council shall not cause a special election to be held to fill the vacancy but said vacancy shall be filled as part of the regular election process.”

Section 501 of the City Charter states that the council every January is to elect a council president. If there’s a vacancy in the office of mayor, the charter states, “the office of the Mayor shall be filled by the President of the Council as provided on Article III of this Charter.”

I asked Caprioglio on Thursday if administration officials are telling him to get ready to become interim mayor.

“One day it’s yes (be prepared), one day it’s no,” Caprioglio said.

Swearengin is termed out in January. The 2016 general election is Nov. 8. District 6 Council Member Lee Brand and County Supervisor (and former District 7 Council Member) Henry R. Perea survived the June 7 mayoral primary to make the runoff.

Caprioglio in the June primary earned a second term as District 4 representative. He ran unopposed.

Caprioglio declined to say whether he’s heard where Swearengin might be headed.

There can be no denying Swearengin’s lofty ambitions or her willingness to leave the mayor’s office before her term expires. She ran as a Republican for California controller in 2014, losing to Betty Yee (Democrat) in the general election. But she ran a vigorous campaign, picking up the endorsements of most major newspapers and getting 46% of the vote.

Nearly 3.25 million voters in a largely Democratic state voted for Swearengin. She’s a strong supporter of high-speed rail, which surely puts her on favorable terms with Gov. Jerry Brown.

If Swearengin resigned and Caprioglio moved temporarily to the executive offices, then the council would elect a temporary council president. The council prefers to rotate that position based on council district number. In other words, Council District 5’s representative would temporarily succeed Caprioglio.

Sal Quintero represents District 5. Quintero in the June primary won the Fresno County District 3 supervisorial seat. His days on the Fresno City Council are numbered.

The council also probably would appoint someone to represent District 4 until Caprioglio returned. The council in the past has declined to elect a rookie as council president.

The city of Fresno is a billion-dollar-a-year municipal corporation with more then 3,000 employees. Fresno with about 520,000 residents is the state’s fifth largest city and 34th biggest city in the U.S.

A lot of power resides in Fresno’s mayor, even if the occupant is on temporary duty.

UPDATE: City of Fresno spokesman Mark Standriff issued a denial to the rumors circling around City Hall on Facebook and on KMJ.

“Mayor Swearengin is absolutely NOT leaving office early. She’s running through the tape, which is what she said yesterday in her final State of the City address,” Standriff said in a statement sent to CVObserver.

After initial publication, I spoke with Caprioglio after he had left a City Council meeting to hold a pow-wow with Swearengin. She told in that he would be staying on the job. He added that he couldn’t remember who told him that she might leave for another job.

It’s still unclear why the Mayor saw it necessary to tell the Council President that she’s remaining on the job she was elected to fulfill.

Mayoral exhaustion is nothing new at Fresno City Hall. Mayor Dan Whitehurst in the mid-1980s resigned late in his second term to attend Harvard. Mayor Alan Autry at the end of his first term in 2004 made big noise about foregoing a second term, then changed his mind at almost the last minute.

It’s common sense for a City Hall reporter to look at a lame duck mayor and see a highly-focused job-hunter. After all, the mayor makes $130,000 a year. It’s tough to wake up one day and find yourself out of office, making nothing.

This was the context when I interviewed Swearengin in spring 2012. She was running for a second term in the June primary. She faced a field in vanity candidacies. She was all but guaranteed victory.

Swearengin and I talked in front on the Council Chamber. I asked if she promised the people of Fresno that she’d serve the full four years of a second term. She said yes — there were things she wanted to do that would take a full four years to accomplish.

Then came spring 2014. Swearengin wanted a job in Sacramento — state controller.

In other words, her promise was operable … until it wasn’t.

No one I ever talked to batted an eye at this. Self-interest is the way life works, but especially for politicians. The average Fresno voter can handle it.

Enough with the fake outrage at City Hall.

Something’s going on behind the scenes. I wish Caprioglio hadn’t blinked.

CVObserver will stay on it.

  1. You’re behind on your gossip, George. And you’re totally wrong – Mayor Swearengin is absolutely NOT leaving office early. She’s running through the tape, which is what she said yesterday in her final State of the City address. Please correct your article immediately.

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