Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp announced Tuesday that her office will not pursue criminal charges against members of the Fresno City Council who were accused of violating the Brown Act in connection with the Granite Park sports complex. However, Smittcamp also confirmed that the FBI has launched its own investigation centering around former congressman TJ Cox.
An investigation into alleged Brown Act violations began last June. Smittcamp’s office had received a request to investigate an allegation that Councilmember Esmeralda Soria violated the Brown Act by asking three other Fresno council members “in a personal office and after a closed session hearing,” if Fresno had reached a “deal” with Granite Park operator Terance Frazier for an operational agreement. Frazier was Soria’s fiance at the time.
“Councilmember Soria is alleged to have asked this question despite specifically recusing herself from the issue due to her personal relationship with Mr. Frazier,” said Smittcamp.
Smittcamp says her office could not prove Soria’s actions were a Brown Act violation, but she remains troubled by the sequence of events.
“Because the subject at issue dealt with a matter about which Councilmember Soria had recused herself, the District Attorney’s Office remains troubled by the allegation that Councilmember Soria made such an inquiry. However, based upon the nature of the evidence and confidential information received, the Councilmember’s conduct does not support a prosecution given the standard of proof for a criminal offense. As a result, a criminal charge for a violation of the Brown Act will not be filed in this case.”
Separately, the DA’s office said it will also not pursue charges regarding councilmembers’ alleged violation of city rules stemming from bulk purchases of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic. “Councilmembers were accused of making the purchases through their office accounts in amounts exceeding $50,000 — beyond what city rules allow,” GV Wire notes.
The DA’s office could not prosecute due to “insufficiency of the evidence associated with the lack of cooperation from a witness.”