Fresno

Bredefeld fires back at Ezparsa suit, takes extortion claims to FBI, DA

Fresno City Councilmember Garry Bredefeld isn’t backing away from a legal fight launched by Fresno City Council President Nelson Esparza centering on allegations that Esparza extorted outgoing City Attorney Doug Sloan.

He’s even raised the stakes, taking the claims to Federal investigators.

The legal battle emerged after Bredefeld held a press conference two weeks ago claiming that Sloan’s impending exit as the city’s top lawyer was facilitated by a conversation wherein Esparza ordered Sloan to strictly follow direction from Fresno’s council majority and not comply with any requests from Bredefeld or Fresno City Councilmembers Luis Chavez or Mike Karbassi without prior approval.

Esparza denied the allegation shortly after the press conference.

Hours later, Sloan tendered a brief statement featuring a back-and-forth during a closed-door conversation on April 29. The conversation largely tracked with Bredefeld’s claims.

Last week, Esparza filed a lawsuit against Bredefeld alleging defamation.

Friday, Bredefeld responded with a motion to dismiss alleging Esparza was engaging in a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” or SLAPP.

In his motion, Bredefeld – represented by Walt Whelan, the father of Esparza’s 2018 Fresno City Council opponent Brian Whelan, argues that Esparza would have difficulty proving that Bredefeld’s claims exceed constitutionally-protected speech and are defamatory, particularly given Esparza’s position as a public official.

Read the motion

Along with the motion, Bredefeld included two declarations to provide supplemental information. One comes from the Council member himself.

In his declaration, Bredefeld said he took the allegations to the FBI and Fresno County District Attorney’s Office Public Integrity Unit for further investigation.

The other declaration came from Sloan.

Sloan’s declaration in support of Bredefeld’s motion to dismiss appears to largely follow the statement he tendered two weeks ago to press, corroborating Bredefeld’s underlying claims of alleged extortion by Fresno’s Council President.

In a statement Friday, Bredefeld described Esparza’s suit as “retaliatory.”

“The motion to dismiss this retaliatory lawsuit by Esparza and the declarations by City Attorney Doug Sloan and myself speak for themselves,” Bredefeld said. “We look forward to the scheduled hearing on June 29th.”

Reid Stone is a contributing reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun.