FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The city of Fresno will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for ads and other materials related to the Measure C sales tax proposal on the November ballot.
The city council approved the spending Thursday evening on "education" about the ballot measure, despite objections from several groups.
Critics call it campaigning, which can't be done with taxpayer money.
Chief among the groups taking a stand against the city's spending on Measure C is the League of Women Voters.
Their representatives asked the council to postpone their vote Thursday.
"To work out red flags in this proposal, specifically the use of public funds for what can be viewed as a campaign for Measures M and C," said Kay Bertken, co-president of the League of Women Voters Fresno.
A wide range of organizations is opposing the half-cent Measure C sales tax, including both the local Republican and Democratic parties, the carpenters' union, and Building Healthy Communities.
Leadership Counsel also opposes the tax and its representative questioned whether the city's spending violates state law.
"Although the council proposal labels the funds as going to 'education', this close to an election there is a clear conflict of interest in spending any public funds on ballot measures," said Leadership Counsel's Karla Martinez.
Government agencies are not allowed to use taxpayer money on political campaigns.
City leaders say they're not doing that. They're paying for educational materials.
Their contract with the company producing the material says everything has to be factual and impartial.
But opponents say it's clear which side of the measure the city is taking, especially when their internal documents about the contract say the sales tax is "good for the city of Fresno."
"You can't save this thing," said Measure C opponent Kevin Hall. "The question is: Are you willing to break the law, violate the public trust, and waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars?"
The spending measure passed late Thursday after supporters agreed to cut the funding from $250,000 to $150,000.
At that point, Garry Bredefeld joined Luis Chavez, Mike Karbassi, and Tyler Maxwell in supporting it.
"Let's say we'll do the contract for $150,000 out of the budget you had already proposed so you don't have to take that out of infrastructure," Bredefeld said.
The League of Women Voters will now consider a lawsuit to stop the spending at a meeting on Monday.