Sanger Mayor Joshua Mitchell resigns

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Thursday, June 4, 2015
Sanger's mayor resigns citing racism, not investigations
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Sanger's mayor pulled the rug out from under his own office. Joshua Mitchell resigned Wednesday.

SANGER, Calif. (KFSN) -- Sanger's mayor pulled the rug out from under his own office. Joshua Mitchell resigned Wednesday, but tells Action News it has nothing to do with open investigations into his business and political practices.

"I'm sorry that I come off as a quitter, but there's nothing more I can do for the city," Mitchell said.

He was first elected as mayor of Sanger in 2012. he's credited by many with renewing hope in the city. But he's also been scrutinized for campaign finance violations.

Joshua Mitchell walked to the podium in Sanger's council chambers Wednesday for what may be the last time. The young mayor has watched unemployment cut in half, and development boom in his four years in charge of the town of about 25,000 people. But even as crime rates dropped drastically, Mitchell has also reported threats, harassment and other crimes against himself and his family.

"I frankly could no longer watch my wife be followed, be harassed," he said. "We've had our tires slashed. My house has been vandalized several times."

Sanger's city council tilted against Mitchell last year and his opponents have grown louder. They didn't return our calls seeking comment, but one of them even calls Mitchell "crooked" in signs at his home.

"It's true," said a passerby. "Mayor Mitchell is crooked."

And Action News discovered two investigations involving him -- by the California Fair Political Practices Commission and the Fresno County district attorney's office.

Among other things, he stands accused of doing business with the very same developers he voted to give a big break on impact fees.

"Is there a conflict, though, for your landscaping company to be doing work for Evergreen Communities and the new developments that come into Sanger?" an Action News reporter asked him.

"Absolutely not," Mitchell said. "So, the only way there's a conflict of interest is if I made any vote that directly affects - such as an entitlement, a permit, along those lines, an easement -- within 365 days prior or after that vote."

In fact, we uncovered billing statements from one of the mayor's landscaping companies detailing thousands of dollars in payments from Evergreen Communities -- the first developer to return to Sanger when the economy recovered.

The latest payment was in Feb. 2013 and Mitchell's vote came in May 2014, 14 months later. The outgoing mayor acknowledged the investigations but told Action News he'll be cleared of any wrongdoing.

"There's no one that's going to arrest me any time soon," Mitchell said.

If anything, he says, his political opponents could be arrested. And he believes his departure will also arrest the growth Sanger has seen for four years.