Here’s what you need to know:
- New directors of Departments of Social Services and of Behavioral Health were confirmed.
- Elected County officials will receive salary increases of 7-10%.
- Supervisors Mendes and Pacheco reiterated opposition to granting ARPA funds to a commercial event planner for marketing and advertising a local garlic festival.
Board (all present)
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 9:31AM. Clerk Seidel called roll; all were present. The room was observed to be crowded with attendees. Supervisor Mendes, stumbling over the pronunciation of Armenian words, introduced Pastor Gomitas Zohrabian of the St Gregory Armenian Church in Fowler to give the invocation. Zohrabian, a native of Tehran, Iran, who came to the US IN 1995, spoke against “violence, prejudice, racism, and injustice” and prayed for the “wisdom to do good.” Flag salute followed. The meeting was accessible in person and via livestream, with excellent video and audio transmission.
Agenda Item #1 Approval of agenda. Item #9, which concerned staffing for the Behavioral Health Dept, was deleted from the agenda, per Seidel. Otherwise approved 5-0.
Agenda Item #2 Consent agenda, items #19-51. Item #34 was pulled by Supervisor Magsig, who said it was to be considered together with agenda item #5. Agenda item #33, concerning the ARPA funds allocated for a commercial event planner, was pulled for discussion by Chairman Pacheco. Otherwise approved 5-0.
Agenda Item #3 Retirement plaque presented to Magdalena Gutierrez, who served for 26 years with the Department of Behavioral Health. Interim Director Susan Holt praised her work with supportive housing services. Gutierrez remarked of her work, “Difficult as it is, you can overcome anything if your heart is in the right place.” Members of the Board thanked her, and a group photo was made.
Agenda Item #4 Proclamation declaring April 2022 “Home Visitor Appreciation Month.”
Fabiola Gonzalez, director of First 5 Fresno County was present to speak about the home-visitor program, which is a collaboration with the Health Department and consists of about 280 nurses and paraprofessionals who provide support for babies and families. About 20 attendees, all connected with the program, approached the dais for the group photo. Pachedo quipped, “There went half the audience.”
Agenda Item #5 Proclamation declaring April 2022 “Child-Abuse Prevention Month.” Consent agenda item #34, the Fresno Council on Child Abuse Prevention’s 2020-21 annual report, was also discussed. Magsig said that children were a “precious resource” and introduced Maria Aguirre, Interim Director of the Department of Social Services, who gave statistics regarding the number of calls received about abuse (18,000 annually), investigations of abuse cases (9,000 annually), and verified reports of abuse (1,500 annually). Poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, and domestic violence were identified as factors among abuse cases. Targeting areas of the County with highest child-removal rates, the goals of the Council are to reduce abuse and neglect via investment in family services. Several Neighborhood Resource Centers (NRCs) in both rural and metro areas offer parenting support, home visitation, translation, counseling, and the like. “If children don’t die from abuse, they survive to become juvenile delinquents. Bad children are not born; they are made.”
He did not cite the source, but Magsig offered some statistics as well: Fresno County, though comprising only 2.5% of the population of California, bears 4.6% of the state’s child-abuse cases.
Tricia Gonzalez, Deputy Director of the Department of Social Services, talked about “shaken baby syndrome.” As she and her colleague spoke, a male adolescent in a wheelchair was positioned next to the podium. Gonzalez said that the young man had been violently shaken as a baby, resulting in severe and irreparable brain damage. “Adam,” as he was called, had not been expected to live, but he had so far survived to age 18, though with severe disabilities from which he would never recover. It was unclear if the young man could understand what was said about him.
It was mentioned that “Fresno has a lot of problems, such as poverty,” and that the COVID crisis presented a “perfect storm” for abuse within the home. “Home has never been a safe place,” noted Aguirre, adding that “domestic violence is child abuse.”
Magsig read the proclamation aloud. Brandau noted that the presentation was “very sobering” then spoke about the work that County governments do being not so well known among the public. Quintero said that “people don’t realize” how much work goes into efforts such as this one.
A group photo was taken.
Agenda Item #6 Proclamation declaring April 2022 as “Sexual-Assault Awareness Month.” Margarita Rocha and staff members from Centro La Familia were present to discuss services her organization offers to victims of sexual assault. She mentioned that services from other agencies who presented earlier in the meeting—about child-abuse prevention and the home-visitor program—were all integrated: “We have to work collectively,” she noted. In counseling assault victims, no social-security numbers are taken nor is immigration status questioned. “You’re a victim and you need to survive,” is how Rocha characterized the intake process. Clerk Seidel read the proclamation aloud, after which a group photo was made.
Agenda Item #33 Chairman Pacheco had pulled this consent item, which concerns a grant of $225,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to be paid to a commercial entity called National Food Festivals, Inc, for their marketing and advertising budget for a local garlic festival. Though the matter had passed the Board 3-2 at the previous meeting, with Mendes and Pacheco dissenting, now the matter was on the agenda for formal authorization. Pacheco reiterated that he had voted “no” and was still opposed and would vote “no” on the authorization.
Public comment was opened, and Peter DeYoung, CEO of National Food Festivals, Inc, was present to make a speech in defense of receiving the grant. He advised the Board that he would speak over the three-minute limit, and he did. He claimed to have “enormous support” from “the community” though he did not clarify if the support was for the festival itself or for the granting of ARPA funds for the purpose of advertising his event (ARPA funds were intended for managing recovery from the consequences of COVID).
While not acknowledging explicitly that some County officials opposed the grant, DeYoung remarked, “We recognize that there are some who do not understand.” Appearing to attempt to justify receipt of the funds, he said that he had followed all the rules for the ARPA application and was told that his company was “absolutely qualified” to apply for the funds. Continuing in a defensive mode, he claimed that the garlic festival was “not a party,” that it would become an “ongoing initiative” which supports local business. A young woman seated in the audience in the front row continually smiled and nodded her head as DeYoung spoke. DeYoung went on at length, justifying the worth of the festival and its value to local garlic farmers. Gilroy, formerly a well-known host of a garlic festival, would no longer lay claim to being the “garlic capital” title. Now Fresno was, and really was all along, the true “garlic capital.” No one knew that Gilroy garlic actually came from Fresno! DeYoung’s garlic festival would change everything, the main purpose of which, he said, was to promote Fresno County as a garlic capital. Further, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and other essential workers of the COVID era would be admitted free to the festival, he said, perhaps as a means of connecting the use of the ARPA funds with COVID recovery.
Several members of the public lined up behind DeYoung to speak on his behalf. After the first speaker—who said she had six children, was a college student, and owned a food-truck business—spoke in favor of the festival (but did not mention the ARPA funds), Brandau, though no longer chairman, took the liberty of suggesting that speakers in opposition to the festival and/or granting of ARPA funds, come forward in the line to speak first, since he rightly presumed that most if not all were there in support (“No need for overkill” he said). One man from the back of the line then quickly pushed his way to the podium, but rather than speak in opposition, he announced himself to be Jeff Aiello, CEO of Valley PBS, and named a few unrelated documentaries he had produced. He then asserted without evidence that “ag gets bad PR,” and that “ag is under attack” from people who, he alleged, “don’t want to see ag thrive.” He went on to praise the notion of the food-festival event, because, he said it was a “platform for story-telling,” and none other than Valley PBS was behind the festival. He did not mention the issue of ARPA funding for marketing and advertising the event on behalf of the commercial entity mounting it.
Several others, including food-truck operators and a former dance-studio owner (“I have friends in Hollywood and New York,” noted the latter—it was unclear if he intended to suggest that he had influential connections) spoke in support of agriculture and the festival. Vanessa Puopolo from Visit Fresno County was present to cheer on the festival; the guiding principle for her, she said, was “If it’s not generating revenue, why are we doing it?” She too did not mention the question of use of ARPA funds for marketing and advertising the event.
At this point, Mendes said that he and “Brian” (Pacheco) were never opposed to the garlic festival itself, which was “dumped on us” (the County Board) because the cities of Fresno and Clovis had declined to support it. “We’re the farmers” on the Board, he said, and his farmer colleagues who grow garlic did not approve of the amount of money to be granted to the event promoter. Pacheco remarked that the matter of the festival itself was not up for debate and that the largest garlic grower in the County supported the festival but not the amount of ARPA money to be granted to the event promoter. Brandau told DeYoung, “You did a better job today” of explaining himself. It was Brandau who had first broached the subject of granting ARPA funds for this particular event planner at a previous Board meeting.
Passed 3-2, with Mendes and Pacheco voting “no.”
Agenda Item #7 Confirm appointment of Susan Holt as Director of the Dept of Behavioral Health. CAO Nerland introduced Holt, noting, aside from her professional experience, that she can operate heavy construction equipment and once won third place in a rodeo event. Holt said she would “keep her remarks short and sweet—like me,” repeating the phrase “if you vote yes” (to confirm her appointment). Pacheco pointed out that she had repeated the phrase five times, and that became a running joke throughout the discussion. Holt referred to herself as “quirky” and made extensive thanks to her parents and family, most of whom were present. She said that she mostly wanted to thank the people she served, while unaccountably shaking her head. Magsig, attempting a quip, said, “You’ve had an opportunity to work with us, so I’m surprised you’re still interested in the position.” Mendes remarked, “You said you were ‘quirky,’ so you’ll fit right in.” Brandau: “You have vision.” Pacheco: “You’ve earned my support.” Quintero: “I know you’re going to do a great job.” Departing director Dawan Utecht was present to say that Holt will “far surpass what I was able to do.” Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #8 Clerk Seidel remarked, “It is with great pleasure that I announce this one,” and read the item: confirm appointment of Sanja K. Bugay to the position of Director of the Department of Social Services. Nerland introduced her and said that Bugay had been an exchange student in Fresno at the start of the war in Bosnia. Her husband, Joel Bugay, is an employee of Madera County. Ms Bugay spoke briefly and noted that as a student she worked hauling tomatoes by truck. Brandau, repeating what he told Holt, said “You have vision.” He added, “Glad to support you.” Magsig said, “I know you are going to be fantastic” because “Kings County [where she used to work] called and threatened us if we took you away.” Pacheco remarked on Bugay’s experience driving a tomato truck, but in a parapraxis, he said “garlic” rather than tomato and corrected himself. Confirmed 5-0.
Agenda Item #9 Deleted. (The item concerned reclassifying a salary band within the Behavioral Health Department.; no reason given for the deletion.)
Agenda Item #10 Hikes in salaries for elected officials. Hollis McGill from Human Resources was present to introduce the item. County Clerk, District Attorney, and Sheriff all get a 10% raise; Assessor and Tax Collector each get a 7% raise. Salaries would be set for the next four years, excluding cost-of-living raises. Magsig asked why some raises were 10% and others 7%; McGill replied that an analysis was done of comparable salaries, and the decisions were based on the data collected. She also said that a goal was to be a leading employer among competing counties. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #11 Add six positions to the Public Defender’s department. No discussion. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #12 Supervisor reports. Only Mendes had a comment, which appeared to be about volunteer agreements with water districts, but what he attempted to communicate was unclear—he quoted “The Godfather,” not specifying book or film: “Either your signature or your brains will be on that paper,” suggesting that agreements were compulsory and not voluntary. However, he offered no other details, so the point he was trying to make was lost. He seemed to be the only one amused by his own wit.
Agenda Item #13 Board appointments. Only one appointment made by Magsig. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #14 Public comments regarding items not on the agenda. Approaching the podium to speak and not giving a name, a young man threw his knapsack on a chair, then removed his plaid shirt, revealing a white T-shirt with the word “PRISONER” on the back. He shuffled papers for a moment and then said, “I’m just a man who happens to be in the public.” He was generally incoherent and mumbled while stopping often to shuffle papers. He seemed to be complaining about either a robbery or an instance of police entering his home without cause and taking his property, but he spoke so unintelligibly that it was not possible to understand clearly what his issue was. Attorney Cederborg interjected a comment and told the man, addressing him as “Mr Amps” (documents the man brought were handed to Seidel, who handed them to Cederborg, who appeared to see the name on a document), he could file a claim with the Clerk’s office. The man replied that “Mr” was a “title of nobility” which he rejected and demanded that Cederborg address him by his first name or just as “T.” Cederborg tried another surname he noticed on one of the documents. “Call me ‘one of the people’,” said the man. The exchange became hostile, the man “shushed” Cederborg who then warned that he was over the allotted time and that Security would shortly be called. A Security official was seen to enter the room. Magsig broke in and addressed the man as “T,” and said that his office would “look into” the concerns, adding “Thank you very much, T, I appreciate that,” at which point the man picked up his belongings and left voluntarily.
At 2:26PM, the Board went into closed session; matters to be discussed were labor negotiation, litigation exposure & initiation, and real-estate negotiation. Cederborg noted that there could be something to report, so the Board recessed until a time uncertain. Returning from the closed session, Cederborg reported that regarding agenda item #15 the Board had authorized initiation of litigation regarding a violation of zoning code involving a nuisance operation of a business.
If you believe anything in these notes is inaccurate, please email us at Documentersfirstname.lastname@example.org with “Correction Request” in the subject line.