Fresno

Cozy relationships landed Fresno BHC a $2mil COVID-19 deal, Bredefeld alleges

The Fresno City Council approved a $2 million contract with local nonprofit Fresno Building Healthy Communities Thursday to enhance coronavirus testing, contact tracing and quarantine support services. 

Fresno Building Healthy Communities will oversee the services in and dish out funds to several local community organizations. 

Sandra Celedon, Fresno Building Healthy Communities CEO, said some of the what the nonprofit will work on is to create health education curriculum that is culturally adapted, hire contact tracers, promote testing clinics and provide direct quarantine support by having community health workers stay in contact with individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and coordinate financial support to help them follow isolation guidelines. 

The $2 million contract will run through Dec. 30 and comes from the city’s Federal CARES Act funds, which totaled over $90 million. 

Fresno Building Healthy Communities was part of a similar, $5 million deal announced last week between Fresno County and Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission.

The nonprofit was originally slated to serve as the lead organization on that contract, but worries by County officials that BHC lacked adequate internal controls led to EOC taking lead and BHC serving as a subcontractor and service provider.

The City Council approved the contract 5-2, with Councilman Garry Bredefeld leading the charge in opposition.

Bredefeld expressed no problems with the program that the contract established, but took issue with who the city would be partnering with. 

“I have a problem giving $2 million of taxpayer money to Celedon and her organization for many reasons.” 

One issue Bredefeld raised was the fact that Celedon posted a tweet in May in response to a video of a Minneapolis Police Department precinct on fire in the aftermath of the Goerge Floyd death that read, “Burn it down. Black Lives Matter. No justice, no peace. Enough is enough.” 

“She obviously supports burning healthy communities, not building them,” Bredefeld said. 

The northeast Fresno councilmember also questioned Fresno Building Healthy Communities’ experience, or lack thereof, in organizing the coronavirus support services. 

“They know nothing about contact tracing or quarantine support and are only being given this contract because she’s connected to friends on the council,” Bredefeld said. “There are plenty of other people who could be doing similar type work.” 

Councilmember Esmeralda Soria took offense to Bredefeld’s “friends” comment. 

“I do take issue with the fact that you say, ‘Oh, we’re giving contracts to friends.’ No I’m not,” Soria said. “You don’t know who my friends are, obviously. No you don’t. So I take issue with that, because every single other Thursday you are voting on contracts that I can say they’re your friends, they’re your developer, they’re your business friends.” 

Another issue with Celedon that Bredefeld pointed out is the current lawsuit she has with the city over the failed parks tax, Measure P.

Councilman Paul Caprioglio chimed in saying he could not support a contract with someone who currently has a lawsuit against the city. 

Instead of working with Fresno Building Healthy Communities, Bredefeld made a motion – which Caprioglio seconded – to sign the agreement with three organizations who have medical education experience: Fresno State, Fresno City College and UCSF Fresno. 

His motion failed 2-5, after which the council took a vote on the original proposal, which passed 5-2 with Bredefeld and Caprioglio voting against it. 

“There are other people out in the community that can do a much better job and are trained to do this, and instead we’re giving it to somebody who’s suing the city and wants to burn down healthy communities,” Bredefeld said. “I’m sorry, it’s insane.”

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.