Fresno Co. campaign finance suit against Fresno City Councilmen stalls

A decision on whether a pair of Fresno City Councilmen will have access to vast campaign war chests in 2024 will be delayed a few weeks.

Fresno County’s hopes for an expedited trial against Fresno City Councilmembers Garry Bredefeld and Luis Chavez have been put on pause for a few weeks. 

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Jonathan Skiles denied Fresno County’s request for an expedited trial based on a procedural matter. 


The backstory: Three years ago the Fresno County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance capping campaign contributions at $30,000 per election. Since then, the county has argued that its ordinance applies to transfers between candidate-controlled committees. 

  • Bredefeld and Chavez declared their candidacy for the board earlier this year, taking on incumbents Steve Brandau and Sal Quintero, respectively. 
  • At last county Bredefeld had $228,388 in his city council campaign account, and Chavez had $110,018.42 in his. Both candidates have announced their intention to transfer all of their funds into their new accounts for their board campaigns. 
  • In response, the board of supervisors initiated a lawsuit against Bredefeld and Chavez seeking to cap their transfers at the $30,000 limit. 

The big picture: Fresno County filed a motion in court Wednesday to expedite the trial and set a start date within the next couple of months. 

  • Skiles denied the request because Bredefeld and Chavez have not answered the complaint and are not required to until April 13. 
  • Because of that, Skiles informed the county that the court cannot yet make such a ruling until the defendants officially respond. 
  • The county will be free to make another request for an expedited trial after April 13. 

Go deeper: In the motion, Fresno County counsel Daniel Cederborg argued that the current confusion of the rules damages the public confidence in the county’s elections, something that he said will only increase the longer this goes on. 

  • Cederborg also argued that it also creates potential unfairness to other candidates who may be considering runs for county office. He noted that the county is aware of at least one candidate that declined to run for a county position in part due to the restrictions that are in place by the county ordinance. 

What they’re saying: “Without a speedy determination of the legal issues involved in the dispute between the parties, additional candidates that may be considering runs for County elective office may not join the race on the mistaken assumption that they will be facing not only the incumbents but other politicians with large amounts of funds collected from different, previous campaigns,” Cederborg wrote in the motion. 

  • In a statement tendered to The Sun, Bredefeld said he has already transferred the funds over to his supervisor campaign account. 
  • “I have followed all laws and already legally transferred my City campaign funds into my Supervisor account. The Good Old Boy Club, also known as the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, continues to misuse and steal taxpayer money that should be used to provide critical services to District 2 constituents,” Bredefeld said. “Instead, they have weaponized government County attorneys to file lawsuits against political rivals and we have to use our own resources to fight them in court. This taxpayer-funded lawsuit is unprecedented and is nothing more than an ‘Incumbent Protection Scheme.’ I intend to bring real change, accountability and transparency to the Board of Supervisors despite these wasteful and disgraceful efforts.”
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