Lingering questions after City Attorney exposes Bonusgate

Fresno City Hall’s top lawyer exposed Bonusgate. Now, questions are focusing on him, George Hostetter writes.


Sloan now had to get his bosses involved. Imagine the council’s dilemma when Sloan told his bosses the next week about the contents of that two-page spreadsheet.


Council members might go: Wow, those are mighty big bonuses being given out in Ashley’s corner. But they were all in the annual budgets. We, full-time council members, just didn’t catch them. How do we explain that?

Council members might go: Wow, the Transparency Act requires Ashley to give all that information to us every year on a gold plate. She hasn’t done that for three years. Tell us again – which legislature passed the Transparency Act?

Council members might go: Wow, that darn Rudd stepped outside his constitutional bounds by saying “no” to our city attorney. We’d already given Sloan permission to give the raises and bonuses. Doug, why did Rudd stick his nose into our business? What’s that? You say Rudd wasn’t the instigator? You say you voluntarily went to Rudd because you wanted to be a team player? Doug, how is this going to help us portray Rudd as the bad guy?

Council members might go: Wow, this spreadsheet isn’t going to stay a secret for long. Sure, the spreadsheet makes Swearengin look like a spendthrift. But it and our city attorney make us look stupid. What do we do? Anger, that’s the ticket. Righteous indignation. We’ll get in the first punch. Anybody got the phone number of a good newspaper?

Yes, I exaggerate. But farce makes my point. All Sloan had to do was take the council’s yes for an answer. Get the money through the usual shuffling of personnel spots, give the raises and bonuses, then move on. If the Administration goes ballistic, let the council deal with it. After all, what’s Swearengin going to say? “I can give $100,000 to a favorite employee, but you can’t give $5,000 to one of yours”?

Instead, Sloan went rogue. He, a bureaucrat, entered the realm of politics without the express permission of his bosses. Sloan knew bonuses are political dynamite or he wouldn’t have gone to Rudd in the first place.

Sloan’s bosses now have to maintain this public posture of moral outrage and hope the issue dies before the public gets even more cynical and wishes a pox on both houses.

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