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Fresno council members seek how much money was used in lawsuit against them

Fresno council members Luis Chavez, left, and Garry Bredefeld, right, speak at a press conference.
Esther Quintanilla
Fresno council members Luis Chavez, left, and Garry Bredefeld, right, speak at a press conference.

This story was updated Thursday, May 30, 2024. Click here to find the latest headlines from KVPR.

FRESNO, Calif. – Two Fresno City Councilmembers want to know how much taxpayer money was used by Fresno County officials to fund a lawsuit against them. But county officials say the councilmembers failed to make a records request prior to holding a press conference.

When they spoke to reporters Tuesday, Fresno councilmembers Luis Chavez and Garry Bredefeld said they submitted a records request seeking to obtain county documents that could show how much was spent to hire a law firm to sue the pair in what they call a “frivolous lawsuit.”

A statement from the county to KVPR said up until Tuesday’s press conference, the county was “unaware of any requests” by the council members seeking details on costs for the lawsuit. It said the case was resolved on May 20.

Chavez and Bredefeld are both running for seats on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. Bredefeld is a candidate for District 2 supervisor against incumbent Steve Brandau. Chavez is seeking a supervisor seat in District 3 against incumbent Sal Quintero.

“The funding for the county's legal pursuits, including the fees for its own lawyers, and now the fees for our attorney comes directly from the pockets of the county taxpayers,” Bredefeld said.

He called the funds used for the lawsuits “questionable and irresponsible.”

The lawsuit was brought last year after Chavez and Bredefeld announced an intent to transfer funds from their city council campaign finance committees to their Board of Supervisors campaigns.

The lawsuit argued the councilmembers' attempt to transfer funds violated a 2020 ordinance that had set a $30,000 cap on transfers or contributions for non-county elective offices into campaigns for county seats.

But in October, the Fresno Superior Court ruled in favor of Chavez and Bredefeld. A few months later, the county was ordered to reimburse the pair of $72,709 in legal fees.

According to the California Public Records Act, the county is allowed 10 days to respond to the councilmembers’ request.

“There needs to be accountability,” said Chavez. “And this is the first step in getting that accountability so taxpayers know exactly how their dollars are being used.”

Updated: May 30, 2024 at 1:14 PM PDT
This story was updated on Thursday, May 30, 2024, with comment from Fresno County.
Esther Quintanilla reports on diverse communities for KVPR through the Central Valley News Collaborative, which includes The Fresno Bee, Vida en el Valle, KVPR and Radio Bilingüe.