Fresno

Was Fresno City Attorney’s exit forced by “extortion” attempt? Here’s what he had to say.

The exit of Fresno’s City Attorney, Doug Sloan, wasn’t as it appears to be, or so claims one Fresno City Council member.

Councilman Garry Bredefeld held a press conference Friday at City Hall to reveal an alleged extortion attempt by Council President Nelson Esparza directed at Sloan. 

Sloan is set to take over as the city attorney in Santa Monica next month. His departure comes in part due to a private conversation he had with Esparza. 

Following the regular open session city council meeting on April 21, the council moved to closed session to discuss, in part, Sloan’s performance review. 

On April 22, according to Bredefeld, Sloan met with Esparza and was told he would be fired if he did not do the following four things: 

  • He was to solely work for Esparza, Councilman Miguel Arias, Councilman Tyler Maxwell and Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria
  • He was to no longer do any work for Bredefeld, Councilman Luis Chavez and Councilman Mike Karbassi
  • When Bredefeld Chavez or Kabassi requested him to do any work for them, he was not to do it and to report back to Esparza what they requested him to do
  • He was to understand that Esparza was the only thing stopping him from being fired by the council

“Now I’ve personally spoken several times with City Attorney Doug Sloan, and this is what he told me very clearly. This is not second hand. This is my sitting down and talking with him,” Bredefeld said. 

“He expressed that he felt this was an extortion attempt by Esparza, and he was shocked by what he was told. He told me there were many reasons for his departure, and I believe there are many reasons for his departure. But essentially this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and this is why he left the city and sought another job.” 

Bredefeld directed the media to California Penal Code Chapter 7 – which involves extortion. 

Section 518 reads the following: “Extortion is the obtaining of property or other consideration from another, with his or her consent, or the obtaining of an official act of a public officer, induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.” 

Sloan was not present at Friday’s press conference. Bredefeld said Sloan was traveling to Santa Monica at the time. 

Friday evening, Sloan confirmed many of the key claims made by Bredefeld in subsequent media requests providing the following comment:

[O]n the morning of April 22, I spoke to Council President in his office. This was the exchange:

[Nelson Esparza]: “I’m just going to cut to the chase. I’m standing between you and you losing your job. From now on you are to only work for the Council majority.”

[Doug Sloan]: So what do I do if the others ask me to do something?

NE: “Come talk to me.”

DS: “So where is Luis [Chavez] on this?”

NE: “It doesn’t matter.”

End of the conversation.

I relayed this conversation to a few people, and did not intend for it to be made public. First, I knew that there was no proof, other than credibility, that the conversation occurred. Second I was already strongly considering the new position, and I knew in my mind one way or another, I was certainly not going to violate the Charter and professional responsibilities and not provide service to all City officials.

It’s unfortunate this occurred, and hopefully it never will again.

Bredefeld said many people inside City Hall are aware of the alleged extortion, including Mayor Jerry Dyer. 

“[The] mayor was aware of it before I was aware of it, and it’s shocking,” Bredfeld said. “It’s shocking to all of us.” 

After Bredefeld heard about the alleged extortion, he had several conversations with Sloan over the last week where the city attorney revealed the details of the meeting with Esparza. 

Bredefeld said law enforcement has been informed about the extortion allegation. He declined to share who informed law enforcement as well as which agency was involved. 

“The appropriate law enforcement agencies have all been informed,” Bredefeld said. 

Esparza released a statement following the press conference, calling the allegations “baseless.” 

“Unsurprisingly, Bredefeld is again making allegations that are false, unsubstantiated, and lack evidence. This latest tantrum comes with the irony that Bredefeld is the only Council member who has knowingly weaponized City Staff and resources, including the City Attorney’s Office, for political gain and media attention,” Esparza said. 

“In fact, it’s clear that his latest charade is an attempt by Bredefeld to adversely influence the hiring of the next City Attorney by muddying the waters with politics. It is unfortunate that Bredefeld has now caused our talent pool for the position to shrink. These ongoing tantrums by Councilmember Bredefeld, especially during an election season, will likely continue because he remains upset that different versions of the Fresno City Council have bypassed him for leadership positions. He has only served to further isolate himself and cast doubt upon the good work being done at City Hall by so many of us that spend our time in productive ways.”

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.