Here’s what you need to know:
- Several residents of unincorporated areas, such as El Porvenir, Cantua Creek, and Three Rocks, were present to plead for relief from water debt, given that the costly water is contaminated and not potable.
- Approximately 25 correctional officers were present to express long standing frustrations with working conditions and compensation, which they say are substandard and unsustainable. They plan to strike as of May 23, having rejected the most recent labor contract offer made by Fresno County.
- A first hearing was held about a newly effective ordinance regarding disposal of organic trash (such as food waste) in compliance with state law, the aim of which is to reduce such matter in landfills where it produces methane gas as it decomposes. The ordinance was mocked by Supervisor Brandau.
Brian Pacheco, 1st District, Chairman
Sal Quintero, 3rd District, Vice-Chairman
Steve Brandau, 2nd District
Buddy Mendes, 4th District
Nathan Magsig, 5th District
Paul Nerland, County Administrative Officer (CAO)
Daniel C. Cederborg, County Counsel
Bernice E. Seidel, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors
Chairman Pacheco called the meeting to order at 9:38 a.m., several minutes past the 9:30 a.m. start time; he thanked everyone for their patience and suggested that one colleague had arrived late. The room was full of attendees. Clerk Seidel called roll; all Board members were present. Supervisor Magsig introduced Geraud Brumfield, Director of College Ministries of the First Presbyterian Church of Fresno. In his introduction, Magsig referred to “God” several times, drawing out the vowel. Brumfield prayed, “God, may your master plan be revealed in this meeting” and “Jesus Christ, in your name I pray.” He quickly pivoted to the flag salute. For virtual attendees, audio issues came up in the first few minutes but were quickly resolved. Pacheco, appearing to anticipate a greater than usual amount of public comment, announced that a Spanish-language interpreter was in the room and available to help commenters.
Agenda Item #1 Approval of agenda. Clerk Seidel noted that Item #9 would be deleted. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #2 Consent agenda. Mendes asked to pull Item #43 for discussion. Pacheco noted that for Item #47, which concerned salary adjustments for mental-health and social-work positions, the Board’s request for a study of the matter was made in January 2022 and beat the deadline of June 2022, but the item was not otherwise pulled for discussion.
Agenda Item #3 Retirement plaque presented to Irma Macias, who worked for the Probation Department for 34 years. Probation chief Kirk Haynes was present to praise Macias, who started in the department as a volunteer. She and her supervisor Gilbert Sanchez were criminology students together at Fresno State, and she started at Fresno County at the same time with Haynes. Macias spoke: “First, I want to thank Jesus Christ,” she said. Supervisor Quintero expressed his thanks to her for her service.
Agenda Item #4 Retirement of Laura Quintana, 33 years with the Probation Department as a juvenile corrections officer. Some of her colleagues were present to speak about her. She thanked her parents for her “work ethic.”
Agenda Item #5 Retirement of Phillip Chavez, 28 years with the sheriff’s department as a corrections officer.
Agenda Item #6 Chairman Pacheco declared May 15-22 “Public Works Week.” He commented that Public Works “makes daily contributions to residents,” such as work with code enforcement, parks, sewers, bridges, traffic signals, potholes, etc. Steve White, Director of Public Works and Planning, was present and thanked the Board for their “leadership through the last difficult two years.” He explained that the catchphrase of the Public Works Department was “Ready and Resilient.” Martin Querin, road Maintenance and Operations Manager, was present as well. Other colleagues, such as Lee Ann Eager, Chair of California Transportation Commission and President/CEO of the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation (EDC); and Kelton Herring, Road Equipment Operator, were present to accept special copper plaques, which also appeared on the dais in front of each supervisor. Magsig, who often takes the opportunity to talk about the Creek Fire, rattled off statistics about it without referring to notes and praised Herring for “springing into action” by clearing Public Works vehicles from the path of the fire. White showed a public-relations video showcasing the department’s work.
“A lot of this is about attitude. Steve White has a ‘can-do’ attitude. I’ve never heard Steve say he can’t do something. You [addressing White] brought a new re-birth to the department,” Mendes said. Brandau addressed Herring: “Great job, brother.” He added, “Public Works is the backbone of infrastructure” [sic]. Quintero praised the Public Works staff and quoted an employee who said of the department, “You call, we haul, that’s all.” Then he said to White and Querin, “You both have the same hairdo” (both had thinning hair). Pacheco summarized: “No one is perfect,” but you try to get the job done, he told the staff, perhaps unwittingly qualifying the praise.
Agenda Item #7 Magsig introduced a proclamation declaring May “Elder Abuse Awareness Month.” Sanja Bugay, Director of the Department of Social Services, was present to briefly explain what services and resources her department provides to counter elder abuse. Her colleague Joel Gurss, Social Work Supervisor, said that in 2021 about 4,600 reports of elder abuse were received, of which about 25% were substantiated. Bugay said that the department is developing strategies to educate the public about signs of abuse and inform them about resources and services, per Governor Newsom’s plan. Michelle DiBuduo from the Valley Caregiver Resource Center was present to talk about the department’s education campaign whose slogan is “It’s not OK to look the other way.” Magsig said, “The elderly are valuable to us.”
Agenda Item #43 Pulled for discussion from consent agenda by Mendes. Item concerns construction of permanent supportive housing. “We’re often accused of not doing anything for housing, especially for the homeless,” Mendes said. Susan Holt, Director of Behavioral Health, was present to discuss the project briefly and said that it would provide 330 units of permanent housing as well as mental-health and other services. Sonia De La Rosa, Program Administrator, was also present to discuss services and funding sources. Quintero offered his praise. Then Clerk Seidel returned to the regular agenda.
Agenda Item #8 Oscar Garcia from the Payroll department was present to request approval for two new payroll positions, one tech and one admin. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #9 Deleted, per Clerk Seidel.
Agenda Item #10 Sanja Bugay, Director of the Department of Social Services, requested a temporary re-hire of a recently retired staff member. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #11 Erin Higginson, a senior analyst from Public Works, was present to briefly discuss a list of road and bridge projects to be undertaken by the Department of Public Works for fiscal year 2022-23 and request authorization for them from the Board. Public comment on the matter was open, and Grecia Elenas from the Leadership Counsel thanked the Board for approving some projects for long-neglected areas of the County, such as El Porvenir, which have been asking for help for decades. Mendes said that he drives by the roads in question often, so he knows they are in bad shape, but he didn’t say why it has taken decades for the Board to resolve to repair them. A second person began to comment in Spanish, and the County interpreter translated. She said she was from Cantua Creek and asked that the water debt of the community be forgiven. Pacheco said she was commenting on the wrong agenda item. She then said that the roads in her neighborhood were in bad shape and full of potholes. Heavy machinery is destroying the streets, she said. A third lady, from Three Rocks, commented that her “humble ask for the community” was street improvement.
Agenda Item #12 Will Kettler of Public Works spoke about this matter, which concerned farmworker housing and recommended actions regarding state-mandated modifications related to health and safety code, which, Kettler said, was “pursuant to court order.” The agenda details refer to “recent litigation” but do not specify who was the plaintiff. Agenda details do acknowledge that the Leadership Counsel’s advocacy influenced the changes; Grecia Elenas from that organization appeared at the podium to thank the Board for taking “steps in the right direction.” Pacheco burst out, “Two positive comments in a row!” Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #13 This item concerned the newly effective rules regarding organic or compostable trash. Amina Flores-Becker, Resources Division Manager of the public works department reviewed the matter. Today’s presentation constituted a first hearing of the new ordinance. Flores-Becker said that applications for waivers for certain rural residents have been made. The main issue to be resolved is negotiation with haulers. Mendes said that picking up trash in rural areas would cause air pollution, but he was unclear if he was referring to all trash collection or just organic trash. Then he said, “With government there is no such thing as common sense.” Brandau said, “When you finish your dinner, walk outside and dump your chicken bones in a green bin; it’s 104 degrees outside, not gonna happen.” Magisg, a Clovis resident, said nothing. None of the supervisors demonstrated support for the ordinance. Pacheco said “We don’t make the laws, just implement them.”
Agenda Item #14 Kettler from Public Works introduced this item, which concerned amending sections of the zoning ordinance to permit “landscaping, agriculture, and grazing” subject to conditional-use permits; applies to the Millerton-specific plan area irrigated with “tertiary treated sewage effluent from a municipal sewage system.” Pacheco asked Kettler to phrase the issue in “layman’s terms.” Kettler simply said that the Planning Commission has already approved tertiary water use in multiple acres within the Millerton-specific portion of the General Plan. The item was opened for public comment, and Jeff Roberts of Granville Homes, of the Assemi Group, a Fresno real-estate developer with a history of requesting and being approved for rezoning applications, spoke briefly. Roberts said the Assemi group “approves” of the changes, and Pacheco quipped, “Don’t jinx us.” Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #15 Erin Higginson of Public Works briefly presented bids for bituminous seal-coating of roads in Districts 1, 4, and 5. The lowest bid ($2.1 million) was from Talley Oil of Madera. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #16 Kettler presented this item which proposed to hire staff (two planners and five technicians) for code enforcement, a topic discussed at a recent Board meeting. Pacheco, impressed by the speed with which the matter was addressed, said it was record speed “for government.” A public comment from Riley Talford, SEIU 521 Fresno County Chapter President and Supervising Juvenile Correctional Officer for Fresno County, asked that a classification and compensation study be conducted for the new positions, to ensure salary fairness. Passed 5-0
Agenda Item #17 Supervisor reports.
Brandau—described a town hall meeting on April 23, held jointly with the Fresno City Council.
Mendes—said he and Magsig also held a town hall two weeks ago
Agenda Item #18 Board appointments. Magsig announced one, Quintero two, Pacheco two.
Agenda Item #19 Public comments regarding items not on the agenda. The room was full of people waiting to comment, most of whom were wearing identical black T-shirts with a white logo; they were county correctional officers and security guards, present to speak about their low salaries and unsustainably long hours. A smaller group of people, some of whom appeared before the Board around the time of the last federal election, were unaccountably present to recycle their false claims about the 2020 election. There were also some residents of Cantua Creek and neighboring towns who spoke in Spanish about the region’s contaminated water, the water debt there, and the impoverished community’s request for the County to convert the debt to a loan so it can be forgiven. Pacheco assured all there was “plenty of time” for each person who wanted to comment. 14 correctional officers, security guards or their allies commented. Four people spoke about elections, and a few others spoke on other matters. Most stayed within the five-minute time limit.
Among those speaking on behalf of correctional officers and security guards were Eulalio Gomez and Victor Prado, president and vice president of the Fresno County Public Safety Association, which had announced its intention to strike as of May 23. Prado said that Unit 02 of the Sheriff’s & Probation Personnel is “forgotten.” They are security guards in County buildings, process servers, juvenile justice workers, and the like. As of May 10, the County’s offer has not been accepted.
Tony Silva, an attorney negotiating labor terms on behalf of Unit 02, cited the 2011 pay cut of 9% and said that now correctional officers are paid 41% less than peace officers.
Rudolph Flores, a security guard for 22 years, said he had to borrow money to purchase gas for his car to go to work. He takes home $50 less than when he was first hired in 2000. “We were there,” on the job during Covid, he said, despite lockdowns for everyone else. “Give us a living wage,” he said.
A man who gave his name as Orlando Rosa and said he was a 25-year veteran correctional officer commented that 2011 was his “high point.” He said that life “behind the wall” was hidden from the public. Duties have multiplied, with officers at first doing tasks from “A to C” but now they were forced to work on assignments from “A to M.” His breathing was heavy; he said “I get emotional.” He asked the Board, “Would you keep a job like that?”
A correctional officer who gave his name as Steve Sorita spoke about assault risk. “Our job ain’t any safer than a police officer’s” [sic], he said. “I’m tired,” he added, a statement echoed by others who spoke.
Jimmy de la Cruz, an 18-year veteran correctional officer, described the physical wear and tear of the work. He said that he and colleagues worked throughout the pandemic, doing their part—“Now do yours,” he told the Board. He said he was proud of his badge but that now it was like a “black eye.”
Alonso Casada, also an 18-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, identified two main labor issues: retention and salary. Daily violence drives staff away. He also said that the department was effectively a training ground so employees could find better jobs elsewhere.
A correctional officer who did not give her name said that as a juvenile justice worker, she “goes to school with” children in the system and is involved in most aspects of their lives, as the “most parental” figures they have. Workdays of 16 hours are average, and retention rates are poor. Another woman said she worked 16-hour shifts throughout the pandemic, even when she was pregnant. “Don’t ignore what we do inside our walls,” she said.
Elisia Zavala, who said she was the wife of a correctional officer, called herself a “single wife” because of her husband’s 16-hour days. She said they had five children who rarely see their father. Her husband got Covid twice from the jail, she said, and still had to go back to work.
Julia Jimenez, a correctional officer, said that the overtime was mandated because of a lack of staff. She said that the training in Fresno was reputable but effectively trained people for other jurisdictions, because Fresno County can’t retain staff who are under-paid and overworked. She recently got custody of her four grandchildren, and her 16-hour days preclude her from taking care of them as she’d wish.
A man who did not give his name but has for the last several Board meetings shown up to comment, not always with clarity, said, “Thank god these guys are coming [to work],” and admitted that he himself was a felon. “These guys have tooken care of me” [sic] but they can’t take care of their own families. “OK, have a nice day,” he concluded, to applause.
Pacheco said that, to avoid unfair labor practices, the Board could not negotiate on the spot, but he said, “you are not forgotten behind the walls; we hear you.” He added that he hoped the issues could be resolved in the coming days and pointedly thanked the wife of the correctional officer who spoke.
Among those from Cantua Creek, El Porvenir, and neighboring towns, a Spanish-speaking woman identifying herself as “Sylvia” said, through the County translator, that she had recently moved from the Silicon Valley where her water rate was three times lower than Fresno County’s. She added that the water is contaminated, is not drinkable, and that she is already in debt with water bills. She called the situation “an injustice” and pleaded for the County to help with the area’s water debt.
Esther Ramirez from Cantua Creek said she has been a homeowner since 1982. She asked that the water debt be forgiven, considering that despite the water not being potable, they still get bills for it every month.
Another woman, speaking Spanish, said that she lived in Three Rocks and that she has no light and no water. When she started paying monthly water bills, it cost $39 per month, and now it was $225. She realized she and others have water debt, but she pleaded with the Board to convert it to a loan and forgive it or pay the debt with ARPA funds.
Grecia Elenas again spoke on behalf of residents of Cantua, Three Rocks, and El Porvenir. She said that the residents’ comments showed the “grave necessity” of the water crisis. She suggested that the debt be converted to a loan which can then be forgiven.
Among those who showed up to talk about false claims about the validity of the 2020 presidential election, a man in a California T-shirt whose name was inaudible talked about “ballot harvesting,” “dead people” voting, and demanded what he called a “forensic audit.” Next a woman who gave her name as Jennifer McLean Romero went through a list of similar complaints: “mailing a ballot is cheating,” “fraud’s been proven,” and the like. She said that a “forensic audit” was needed and that Dominion voting machines switch votes. She added without elaborating that Covid hid an elaborate plan to “take power” and she recommended Dinesh D’Souza’s films and books which promote his conspiracy theories. Another woman who did not give her name repeated phrases such as “we the people” and “voting integrity.” She also complained about voting machines and recommended a movie called “20 Mules.” Last of this group, a woman who gave her name as Kay Rodberry complained about inflation and other social ills before suggesting that “documents” from the 2020 election needed to be “preserved,” but she was not otherwise specific. “We anticipate a forensic audit,” she said. She asked the Board if any of them had seen the aforementioned “20 Mules,” and it appeared that one supervisor raised his hand, because she nodded in the direction of Magsig. She said that the Fresno GOP chairman had personally asked her to be in charge of “precinct captains,” though she did not say which precinct. She herself asked these precinct captains if they believed in “massive voter fraud” and they all said “yes.” She produced no evidence of fraud, nor did she cite any, however.
Laura Rosenberger Haider of Fresno made a comment about oil wells in Fresno County and asked that they all be banned, as she said they spread pollutants into the aquifer and groundwater. She read a long list of names of polluting chemicals.
At 12:16pm, the Board went into closed session. Counsel Cederborg said there would be one matter to report on afterwards, so Pacheco said they would return at a time uncertain. However, for virtual attendees, the livestream did not resume.
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