Fresno, CA

Did the Fresno City Council break open meeting law over Granite Park? DA investigating

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Did the Fresno City Council break open meeting law over Granite Park? DA investigatingshuttershock

Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp penned a letter Wednesday to Fresno city officials asking the Fresno City Council to postpone any votes related to Granite Park while her office addresses allegations the council violated the Brown Act.

The letter did not provide any details about how exactly the council may have violated the Brown Act. She did say the latest allegation is not the first.

“While it is important to stress that these are only allegations, the District Attorney’s Office takes such matters seriously and will take all warranted steps to investigate Brown Act violations and any other wrongdoing alleged to have been committed by public officials,” a news release from the district attorney’s office said.

The letter, written to City Attorney Doug Sloan, explained that the Brown Act requires legislative bodies to hold meetings open to the public, and that a meeting is defined as a a majority of legislative members meeting to discuss business in its jurisdiction.

Mayor Jerry Dyer, City Manager Thomas Esqueda and each of the seven councilmembers were copied on the letter.

The council was scheduled to weigh Thursday during a special meeting an amended lease with the Granite Park operator and a lawsuit he brought against the city.

City leaders long have remained divided over the operator of Granite Park.

The city owns Granite Park and pays developer Terance Frazier to maintain and operate it. In 2019, an unfinished city audit found a number of problems with the accounting of park finances under one of Frazier’s nonprofits. At the time, his business partner was former Democratic Congressman TJ Cox. Frazier is currently engaged to Councilmember Esmeralda Soria, who recuses herself from any discussion regarding the issue.

Since then, Sloan made public statements saying Frazier didn’t violate an agreement with the city, and former Mayor Lee Brand even defended a proposal to give Frazier more money to operate the park.

Meanwhile, Frazier said the city wasn’t paying him enough money to properly maintain the park. He also filed a claim for damages and eventually a lawsuit claiming the city discriminated against him. He’s Black, and city officials have not treated white developers the same way, he alleged. The case remains ongoing.

Councilmember Garry Bredefeld maintains his stance that the city’s deal with Frazier has a “stench.”

“I strongly support the District Attorney investigating connections and communications associated with Granite Park,” Bredefeld told The Bee on Wednesday. “As I stated at my press conference two years ago, there is a stench with Granite Park and City Hall, and that stench continues.”

Other city councilmembers appeared to only receive the letter minutes before the district attorney’s office sent out its news release, and they declined to comment. Dyer and Esqueda also declined to comment. The Bee reached out to Frazier for comment and will update this story if he does.

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