Fresno City Council candidate Nelson Esparza will pay a $500 civil penalty to the city and transfer back roughly $5,000 in campaign funds to an old campaign committee as part of a settlement in a campaign finance dispute.
The agreement was signed by Esparza on Wednesday. The agreement was presented to the City Council on Thursday, with City Attorney Doug Sloan signing the deal on Friday.
The agreement states that the settlement document “is not intended to be and does not constitute an admission of any violations of the City of Fresno Charter and/or Municipal Code, or other civil or criminal wrongdoing by Esparza, or any other individual affiliated with his City Council campaign.”
Esparza is currently a member of the Fresno County Board of Education. The dispute revolves around money he raised for his recent school board campaign.
The basic question: Did Esparza violate city campaign finance laws by transferring money from the school board campaign account to a council campaign account during a no-transfer time period?
The two sides have been wrangling for weeks. The City Council met several times in closed session on the issue.
The 8-point settlement begins: “All campaign contributions transferred from another campaign committee account under the control of Esparza during the calendar year 2017 to a campaign account in connection with a potential City Council candidacy shall be returned to the prior campaign account no later than June 1, 2018, and prior to Esparza’s City Council campaign expending additional contributions on the City Council campaign. The funds returned shall then not be utilized for the City Council campaign.”
The agreement requires Esparza to keep the City Clerk informed on a monthly basis on his progress in returning the campaign funds.
The $500 civil penalty must be paid on or before Nov. 1, 2017. Esparza also must make a $500 repayment “to the prior campaign account” on or before Nov. 1, 2017, according to the agreement.
According to the agreement, should Esparza fail to meet terms of the deal by June 1, 2018, he would have to pay the city a civil penalty of $5,950. This penalty could be paid from contributions and/or personal funds.
Esparza wants to be the District 7 council member. District 7 Council Member Clint Olivier, the current council president, is termed out in January 2019.