FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The City of Fresno and the county are at the center of a question of local control in California.
Fresno County voters could decide in the March 5th primary election if elections for the district attorney and sheriff should remain as they are, with the gubernatorial election, or if they should change, as is now state law, to the presidential election cycle.
In August, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors added the item to the ballot in response to Assembly Bill 759.
The bill was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last September and requires all counties in California to hold district attorney and sheriff elections during the presidential cycle.
"The county would be acting against state law. And state law mandates, specifically for charter counties, and Fresno County is a charter county that did not specify before January 1, 2021, that the elections would take place in a particular cycle," said Fresno City Attorney Andrew Janz.
Janz sent a letter Monday, at the direction of the city council, asking state Attorney General Rob Bonta to weigh in on whether the county's ballot measure is legal.
But it could be the fact that Fresno County is one of 14 charter counties in the state, meaning they have more local control that could protect it.
"I think, at the very least, this is going to require not just the attorney general, but I could see this going to court -- going to state court to decide whether or not the clause in the statute is binding," said Cameron DeHart, a political science lecturer at UC Merced.
The County of Fresno sent Action News a statement, writing in part:
"The City Attorney's letter contains several inaccuracies. It is unfortunate that the City Attorney, and apparently, the City Council, have elected to attempt to obstruct this choice by the voters based on a faulty understanding of the Charter powers granted to a charter county like the County of Fresno."
"The county can make a pretty strong argument that, in general, the charter system that we do have in California would lead some judges to be sympathetic to the county," said DeHart.
Action News asked the officials who would be impacted by this: John Zanoni and Lisa Smittcamp.
Sheriff Zanoni sent a statement saying:
"I believe the voters in Fresno County deserve to have a voice in when the election is held for their Sheriff and District Attorney. Our voters have a chance next year to vote on when the Sheriff and District Attorney elections will be held. Let the voters decide since they are the ones who vote for the people that run for these offices."
The District Attorney said she "believes that the more that members of the public can look at and understand Assembly Bill 759, the better."
"AB 759 is an unprecedented and potentially unconstitutional piece of legislation that was pulled from the inactive file and signed into law by the Governor AFTER the District Attorney and Sheriff candidates pulled their papers to run for 4-year terms, and after they were elected by voters to serve 4-year terms."