Thomas Esqueda, Fresno’s City Manager, resigned his post as the highest-ranking official in the mayoral administration of Jerry Dyer on Tuesday after a two-week leave, sources told The Sun.
Esqueda, a water policy guru who shepherded the city’s Department of Public Utilities during its 2016 discolored water crisis, was tapped to serve as City Manager by Dyer during his lengthy transition in 2020.
McClatchy reported that his exit came after an outburst during the closed session discussion over a new contract with the Fresno Police Officers Association.
GV Wire reported that the Esqueda’s departure “comes amid follows strained relationships with some members of the Fresno City Council, as well as clashes with prominent local developers.”
In his resignation letter, Esqueda notes that he travelled to South Carolina to visit family during his leave.
“Upon retirement, my wife and I will be moving to Charleston, South Carolina, to live near my son, his wife, and our grandson so that we can be a part of their daily lives,” he wrote. “My 8 years in Fresno have been nothing short of amazing, and I will treasure my time here forever. I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve as the City Manager for this great City – the absolute pinnacle of my professional career.”
Esqueda’s resignation arrives on the heels of news that Dyer’s Chief of Staff, Tim Orman, would be leaving city service after serving two mayors in the post.
Kelli Furtado, a former deputy chief of staff for former Mayor Ashley Swearengin, was tapped to replace Orman.
It also follows a Thursday McClatchy report that Dyer’s nonprofit foundation, the One Fresno Foundation, was reported to the Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to disclose contributions given from third-parties at the behest of Dyer and administration officials.
The complaint alleged that Dyer used the foundation to solicit donations from various developers, including the operators of Granville Homes, Tutelian & Company, and Fowler Packing.
In late September, Dyer and Esqueda’s offices placed an agenda item requesting the council accept a $50,000 donation from the foundation. The complaint alleges that the contribution was intended to “wash” or launder the funds given by donors who violated ethics rules.
Esqueda, who is not a board member on the foundation, was named in the complaint filed to state ethics watchdogs.
Dyer told the paper that the allegations have “absolutely no merit.”
Georgeanne White, an Assistant City Manager in the Dyer administration and longtime chief of staff to Mayors Alan Autry and Ashley Swearengin, has taken over as Acting City Manager and take over as City Manager on Feb. 2, the day after Esqueda’s resignation is effective.
“Georgeanne is a strong leader with an incredible amount of knowledge about every department in the city,” Dyer said in a statement. “She is a sound decision-maker who is fiscally prudent and very experienced in organizational management, government affairs, and public policy.”