Fresno City Council dais at Fresno City Hall, October 2020

published on March 25, 2022 - 9:50 AM
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The Fresno City Council unanimously voted to perform a spending audit for all council members and other city employees at its Thursday meeting.

All five members voted for an initial audit of credit card charges and other expenditures made by council members for at least five years.

The audit will also analyze all financial transactions, including checks, vouchers and pay orders for all city employees authorized to do make such transactions.

The council voted for the audit a week after Garry Bredefeld held a press conference presenting both receipts and credit card statements for fellow councilmembers Esmeralda Soria, Miguel Arias, Nelson Esparza and Tyler Maxwell of using district operating budgets as “slush funds.”

Next month the council will determine the final price of the audit. At a special meeting of the City Finance/Audit Committee Wednesday, it was estimated that an audit would cost at least six figures. The councilmembers spoke over each other while trading allegations of hypocrisy and corruption. They also argued over who should pay for the audit.

Council President Nelson Esparza told Bredefeld he should be on the hook for $500,000 of the cost for an audit. Esparza said the district calling for the audit should pay it, which Bredefeld called “punitive.”

“Anyone who goes through the invoices and credit card charges will see the power of dishonest and unethical incumbents using taxpayer money as district slush funds for their own personal and political gains and to promote themselves,” Bredefeld said.

Fresno City Manager Georgeanne White said the Dyer administration would perform its own citywide audit.

“It would possibly be two part — sort of the immediate evaluation of our existing policies and whether transactions across the entire city for all credit card users are complying with those policies — while also providing the context of what the history has looked like in the past,” White said.

If the costs for the audit White mentioned exceed $50,000, the mayor’s administration would have to release a Request for Proposal, which would take a few weeks.

The final item was amended to only do an audit for at least the past five years, with the final scope to be determined next month.

Soria said that Bredefeld’s attacks on fellow council members are hypocritical, taking away from important issues in the city, including homelessness and infrastructure.

Soria called out Bredefeld for continuing to employ a staff member on the “taxpayer dime” who was eventually convicted of domestic abuse.

“Instead of coming up with solutions, he would rather spend more time and taxpayer money, criticizing us for working in our districts,” Soria said.

Soria also cited examples of transactions made by the offices of Bredefeld and Karbassi she says are similar to transactions Bredefeld is targeting.

Soria mentioned a $15,000 charge to Karbassi’s account for a turkey giveaway. She also noted Bredefeld’s use of district operating funds, including $5,000 for marketing and videos.

She said Bredefeld paid $2,500 for the production of a coronavirus video that  spread “misinformation” while families across Fresno and the country were “dying.”

“This to me seems hypocritical, political and personal,” Soria said.

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