Concerned that he may have been a victim of extortion by the president of the Fresno City Council, then-city attorney Douglas Sloan told Mayor Jerry Dyer and other key city staff of the allegations.
The information comes from documents filed in the criminal case against Nelson Esparza, accused of one felony count of attempted extortion, and a misdemeanor count of violating the city charter. Esparza, who represents Fresno City Council District 7, faces up to three years in jail if convicted on the charges. His arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 20.
Sloan, in an interview with Fresno County District Attorney investigators, alleges Esparza told him in a private meeting to work only for certain city councilmembers, or risk being fired. If other councilmembers requested services from the city attorney’s office — as permitted in the City Charter — they should be reported to Esparza, according to Sloan.
Esparza has denied all wrongdoing. He also has a different recollection of the April 22 conversation in his office with Sloan. In addition to discussing Sloan’s overall job performance, Esparza said he was discussing new rules on councilmember interaction with the city attorney that had been unanimously approved at the previous day’s meeting.
Following his conversation with Esparza, Sloan reportedly referred to the council president as, “a little pissant millennial” in a conversation with City Manager Georgeanne White. The Miriam-Webster online dictionary defines pissant as “one that is insignificant —used as a generalized term of abuse.”
Sloan resigned as Fresno’s city attorney in early June to take the same position in Santa Monica. Court documents indicate his strife with Esparza contributed to Sloan’s decision to leave.
Investigators asked Sloan “what his thought was” after the Esparza meeting. Sloan said “he felt this was extortion, being that Nelson (Esparza) threatened to fire him if he didn’t only work for selected Councilmembers.”
Although not referenced in the investigators’ declaration, Sloan also communicated with City Councilman Garry Bredefeld. The matter became public May 13, when Bredefeld held a news conference to detail the allegations.
Three days later, District Attorney senior investigators Marshall Varela and Brian Poulsen interviewed Sloan, in response to a complaint filed with their office. Although the court document does not reveal who submitted the complaint, Bredefeld has acknowledged he contacted the DA’s office and the FBI.
Among the first people Sloan told were Dyer, White, and other members of the city attorney’s office, the DA’s declaration said.
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