Former mayor of Sanger may be in trouble for possible conflict of interest on some of his votes

SANGER, Calif. (KFSN) -- Joshua Mitchell insisted his resignation in June 2015 had nothing to do with investigations by the District Attorney's Office and the state Fair Political Practices Commission, the FPPC.

Mitchell told us it was just that his political enemies were threatening and harassing him. But we uncovered billing statements from one of the mayor's landscaping companies detailing thousands of dollars in payments from Evergreen Communities-- a developer building a Sanger subdivision.

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

Mitchell responded, "Absolutely not. 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."

Mitchell denied any conflict even after we sent him pictures of employees from JDM Enterprises working at the Evergreen Communities development in Sanger.

But now, we have found new documents from the FPPC investigation.

Dr. Thomas Holyoke, a political science professor at Fresno State, said, "The FPPC believes there is grounds to believe votes were taken in conflict of interest."

They found probable cause to believe Mitchell failed to disclose income of more than $10,000 from Evergreen Communities in 2012, then failed to disclose his ownership in JDM Enterprises in 2013 and 2014, and the money the business got from Evergreen. But he voted three times in 2014 on items affecting Evergreen Communities.

Dr. Holyoke said small town conflicts of interest are often unavoidable.

"What we expect of our politicians then is to do the honest thing which is to stand up and say 'I have a conflict of interest and therefore I'm recusing myself from the vote.' And it really should be that simple."

We reached out to Mitchell at his home, his business, and his personal phone, but we never heard back.

The six counts against him could lead to fines up to $30,000, but the District Attorney's Office said right now, he's not under criminal investigation.

Sanger city officials tell me Evergreen never finished the development, selling it to another developer not long after Mitchell resigned.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.