Fresno councilmember accusing 4 other councilmembers of misusing budget

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- With 74 pages of credit card statements and hundreds of invoices and emails in his hands, councilman Garry Bredefeld called out four fellow councilmembers for alleged misuse of their operational budgets -- saying there is little to no oversight.

"Each council district budget should revert back to $250,000, not $700,000 to cover two employees and some nominal expenses.

Individual allegations were made surrounding the spending of Councilmembers Arias, Esparza, Maxwell and Soria.

They include restaurant meals, flowers, gifts, personal travel, holiday parties and expenses connected to community events.

"All of this cost thousands of dollars in gifts, food, candy, toys, even bicycles," Bredefeld said. "There are many other charges that have no backup, no records, no documentation regarding the charges, yet the city paid them."

"His solution is to spend even more money," Maxwell said. "Look, every nickel that I spend goes through our city controller. The city attorney has found no inappropriate use of funds."

"There's always a public facing purpose behind each expenditure," Esparza said. "Every elected official here at city hall, we know everything we say, do spend is public record."

Esparza says the council is committed to reinvesting taxpayer dollars into the community.

"What you have is a whole contingent of the council that does believe in that community outreach, he said. "You have a council that is engaging at record levels. That outreach is resource-intensive."

Mayor Jerry Dyer says he hasn't personally looked at the invoices, only heard the allegations and wants an independent forensic auditor to look at all council spending and that of the mayor's office and anyone with a city credit card.

"You don't know what you don't know and it wasn't until this was brought forward by a councilmember that we were made aware of those types of expenditures," he said.

He adds the city already has administrative policies in place that detail procedure when it comes to reimbursement and credit card usage, saying an independent review is an opportunity for the city to make any necessary changes or adopt best practices.

"We want to do everything we can to not lose the trust of our community," he said. "That's why I think we should bring in an outside auditor."

We did reach out to councilmembers Arias and Soria as well, but they did not comment on the allegations.

If the independent forensic audit exceeds $50,000 the city will have to find another funding source.

Upon completion, the audit will be public record. If any violations are found, Mayor Dyer says they will be corrected.
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