Documented by Rachel Youdelman
Summary: What You Need to Know
- The board voted twice on an elections matter, initially rejecting with a 4-1 vote a proposal to contract with Integrated Voting Systems, Inc., dba Integrated Voting Solutions, to print vote-by-mail ballots. Later in the meeting, Mendes requested that the item be reopened, and the vote again failed by 3-2. Brandau falsely claimed that there was widespread national distrust in elections; in fact, there is distrust only on the part of the losing party of the last presidential election. As a result of the vote, County Clerk James Kus will need to hire a vendor to print ballots for upcoming elections on an urgent basis.
- The board accepted the 2022 Annual Fresno County Crop and Livestock Report from the Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Commissioner Melissa Cregan presented the report, which summarizes production volume and revenue. The gross value for 2022 was $8.1 million. Top crops were grapes, almonds and pistachios.
- Several public commenters, union members in purple SEIU2015 T-shirts, pleaded with the board to raise wages for In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers, as they have urged consistently for months at board meetings. It was pointed out that fast-food workers earn more hourly than they do.
Brian Pacheco, 1st District
Steve Brandau, 2nd District
Sal Quintero, 3rd District, chair
Buddy Mendes, 4th District
Nathan Magsig, 5th District, vice-chair
Daniel C. Cederborg, County Counsel
Bernice E. Seidel, clerk of the Board of Supervisors
Paul Nerland, County Administrative Officer (CAO)
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors held its first meeting of the month at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 10. Quintero opened the meeting promptly and asked Clerk Seidel to call the roll. All were present. Quintero then asked Brandau to introduce the person giving the invocation, typically a man from an evangelical church. Today it was a woman, Janet Grimson, who is a chaplain with the Sheriff’s Office. She was introduced by Brandau. Though she addressed “Jehova God,” she continued in a broader vein — “May our lives may be as honest in the dark as they are in the light, as good in obscurity as they are publicly, as faithful when alone as when the world is looking on”—but she ended on an explicitly religious note, addressing “Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
The meeting was about three hours long. The room was full of attendees, including many SEIU15 members in purple T-shirts.
Meetings are open to the public and are held at the Fresno County Hall of Records, 2281 Tulare St., Room 301. Public comments on matters on or off the agenda are welcomed. If you plan to make a comment in person on an item not on the agenda, note that this portion of the meeting is always last on the agenda. Each agenda item is otherwise accorded time for live public comment as they are introduced. Meetings are live streamed; agendas, live stream and meeting video may be accessed here. The next regular meeting is scheduled for Oct. 24 at 9:30 a.m.
Each supervisor represents one of five districts. Who is your county supervisor? Find out here.
To contact your supervisor about any issues or agenda items for a particular meeting, call or email with your opinion or question:
Pacheco District 1 District1@fresnocountyca.gov 559-600-1000
Brandau District 2 District2@fresnocountyca.gov 559-600-2000
Quintero District 3 District3@fresnocountyca.gov 559-600-3000
Mendes District 4 District4@fresnocountyca.gov 559-600-4000
Magsig District 5 District5@fresnocountyca.gov 559-600-5000
Agenda item 1 The board approved the day’s agenda with a 5-0 vote. However, Seidel said that item 10, which concerns an application for a liquor license, would be continued to the Nov. 7 meeting.
Item 2 The board approved the “consent agenda,” items 26-70, with a 5-0 vote, except for item 32, which was continued to the Oct. 24 meeting; item 34, pulled for discussion by Brandau; and item 46, pulled for discussion by a member of the public. The consent agenda includes items considered routine or administrative, grouped together and decided with a single vote; however, supervisors or members of the public may pull an item for discussion.
Item 3 A plaque was presented to Miiko L. Anderson, honoring her retirement after 16 years with the district attorney’s office. Her many accomplishments, including prosecution of human-trafficking cases and training other prosecutors in this area, were recognized by District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, who embraced Anderson and told her, “I love you.” A group photo was taken.
Item 4 A plaque was presented to Brenda K. Villanueva, an employee of the Department of Social Services for 28 years. Sanja Bugay, director of the department, praised Villanueva. As Villanueva held her 4-year-old grandson, the boy was heard to say to her, “What are you doing here?” Everyone posed for a group photo.
Item 5 October was proclaimed Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Oct. 10 as Pink Day, when survivors and supporters wear pink ribbons to raise awareness of the disease and encourage early detection and treatment. Members of a local advocacy group, Sisterhood of Survivors, were present to speak briefly. Magsig mentioned a county employee who is undergoing treatment for the disease and said that members of his family had suffered from it. Quintero, who brought the proclamation, thanked everyone. A group photo followed.
Item 6 The board approved 5-0 a resolution to commemorate the 104th Central Valley Veteran’s Day Parade. Several veterans of various wars were present to speak about the parade, which will be held Nov. 11, beginning at 11:11 a.m., with an opening ceremony at Fresno City Hall at 9:45 a.m. The veterans who work to hold the parade are all volunteers. They said, “The parade is a reflection of the community that supports our veterans.” Quintero said, “I think you deserve a standing ovation,” after which everyone posed for a photo.
Item 7 The board recognized the 50th anniversary of Poverello House, a Fresno nonprofit that serves homeless people, serving daily meals, providing temporary shelter and connecting clients with social services. Recently $1 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds was allocated for Poverello House to remodel and upgrade their kitchen. Mary McGarvin, wife and colleague of Mike McGarvin, the late founder of the organization, was present. Brandau, who brought the resolution, said that people have differing opinions on homelessness, but that Poverello House volunteers do the work to “love on” people. Three members of the public commented with personal stories about homelessness or the Poverello House.
Item 8 The board proclaimed October Domestic Violence Awareness Month. CEO of the Marjaree Mason Center, Nicole Linder, was present, along with several colleagues. Magsig introduced her and noted that last year, there were 11,000 domestic violence calls, though he didn’t clarify if the number reflected county or city totals, or to what agency the calls were made. Linder said that domestic violence data in the county is now tracked on the Marjaree Mason website; data regarding city, type of offense, age, gender, and relationship are collated across the county. A mother of a murdered woman was present to say that the center “saved her entire family.” A few members of the public commented about being helped by the center.
Item 34 (from consent agenda) The board initially rejected with a 4-1 vote a proposal to contract with Integrated Voting Systems, Inc., dba Integrated Voting Solutions, to print vote-by-mail ballots. Later in the meeting, Mendes requested that the item be reopened, and the vote failed by 3-2.
Brandau, a vocal election denier (“I seriously doubt the election of 2020,” he said in an email of Feb. 27) had pulled the item because he wanted to “register a ‘no’ vote,” because of his “deep concerns,” which he explained after the second vote.
County Clerk/Registrar of Voters James Kus was present to briefly speak about the request to authorize the contract. Before he talked, four members of the public, all election deniers, most of whom have spoken on the same subject at previous meetings, spoke. One of them said that she was concerned that “counties have less control over elections,” evidently not understanding that state governments are responsible for election administration. Another person said that the vendor in question owed taxes and the like. None of them approved of California’s vote-by-mail laws.
Kus explained that the vendor was selected from among seven who had submitted bids; the selected vendor, certified in California as required, was the lowest cost, had worked with the county before, and was closest. The vendor was vetted by a panel consisting of Kus’ staff and other county staff. Nevertheless, Pacheco, though he said that he had “the utmost confidence in you [Kus] and your office and do believe in Fresno County that we have fair elections,” questioned Kus, addressing some of the spurious or unverified issues raised by the members of the public who commented. Could the number of ballots printed be reconciled with those returned? Do the envelopes allow people to see how someone has voted? This was an issue which came up in 2021 and was rectified; Pacheco seemed to have forgotten. Pacheco referred to the company’s “shaky past.” Could the next least-costly vendor be substituted?
Kus clarified all Pacheco’s questions and addressed all concerns, noting that the company had been a “good partner” and that it had already begun work on a current election (the contract would be retroactive to August 2023). Brandau interjected, addressing Magsig, “Gotcha by the short hairs, Magsig.” What did he mean? Mailers needed to go out in a month, and preparation for a March 2024 primary was underway, said Kus. It might be an “unfair ask” at this point, to curtail the current vendor’s work and solicit another, Kus said. Pacheco said he would go along with whatever decision the board reached. Kus was asked to come to the next meeting with “vendor number 2.”
Item 47 (from consent agenda) The board voted 5-0 to approve salary resolution amendments for county employees. Riley Talford, employee union representative for SEIU Local 512, was present to thank the board.
Item 9 The board unanimously approved an agreement with the Riverdale Joint Unified School District to hire one deputy sheriff to provide law enforcement services for the school district.
Item 10 This item, concerning an application for a liquor license, was continued to the Nov. 7 meeting.
Agenda Item 11 The board accepted the 2022 Annual Fresno County Crop and Livestock Report from the Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Commissioner Melissa Cregan gave the report, which summarizes production volume and revenue. The gross value for 2022 was $ 8,1 million. Top crops were grapes, almonds and pistachios. Cregan introduced Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, who also spoke briefly. Jacobsen emphasized that despite the high gross income for the valley, “a lot of farmers did struggle last year” because of “input costs.” Cregan then introduced two dogs, a lab and a German shepherd mix, “who are an integral component of the pest prevention system in California that prevents the introduction of harmful pests and invasive species.” On a typical day, the dogs are taken by their handlers to the UPS terminal at 6 a.m. to detect parcels that may contain ag products carrying pests from out of state or internationally.
Item 34 (from consent agenda) The board for a second time voted 3-2 to reject the proposed contract with Integrated Voting Systems, Inc., dba Integrated Voting Solutions, to print vote-by-mail ballots, after the item was reopened at the request of Mendes.
Mendes suggested that the contract be approved for a year, so Kus would have time to arrange for another vendor. “Just sayin’,” noted Mendes. Kus reiterated that a mailing is only a month away, and that preparation would have to stop until a new contract is approved.
Pacheco then said that “department heads’ feathers were ruffled” but that “we [the board] have the final say.” He continued that “we need to get stuff in on time” and that this was unfortunately late, but “it is what it is.” He emphasized that “I stand by my vote,” even though he had earlier said that he would support whatever the board decided. “I will not change my position,” he now said. This is what happens, he said, “when we don’t hold department heads accountable.” Now Pacheco appeared to be implying that Kus had been late in coming to the board, so he was reacting in this manner.
Public comment was opened on the matter. The same people came to the lectern and repeated themselves and described their “lack of trust” in elections generally, their “massive” concerns about voting by mail, even though there is no evidence that there were any improprieties in any recent Fresno County elections, or any nationally. Another person, however, said he hoped this was not a “baseless attack on voting by mail.”
Several people repeatedly emphasized that they respected Kus despite not liking the vote-by-mail laws.
Despite lack of evidence, Brandau said that “nobody trusts the system.” He needed to distinguish himself from other board members who were simply voting “no” for reasons they could identify; Brandau had far more “philosophical” objections, he said. “Government” was wrong and “we all” know that “intuitively.” A “major problem” in the entire nation, Brandau falsely claimed, is “mistrust” of elections. In fact, only the losing party in the last presidential election expresses mistrust. An overwhelming majority of registered voters nationally have confidence in elections.
After the vote, Cederborg clarified that Kus has an obligation to get mailers out, and he needs a vendor to do it. It was clarified that Kus was authorized to hire a vendor. Pacheco barked, “Get it done, James!”
Item 12 The board unanimously approved a five-step salary range for county senior managers and department heads, which would entail salary raises aside from cost-of-living raises.
Item 13 The board voted 5-0 to suspend competitive bidding for a grant-management contract with eCivis.
Item 14 The board approved a sealed bid for 30 acres of county-owned surplus property at the northeast corner of E. Kings Canyon Road and S. Cedar Avenue in Fresno, also known as the old University Medical Center campus. Seidel opened the bid and read the results. The purchaser was Sevak Kachadoorian (whose name Seidel could not read; she asked for help), and the purchase price was $6 million.
Item 15, supervisor committee reports and comments
Pacheco asked Quintero to approve an ad hoc committee of himself and Mendes to work with the Fresno City Council on their “tech share agreement.”
Magsig said that he attended the opening of the Fresno County Fair. Then he mentioned that “our very own Brian Pacheco” had recently won a prize in a dairy cow competition in Madison Wisconsin. Pacheco then said that it was the first time a “mother-daughter” set of cows had won.
Mendes had no comments.
Brandau had no comments.
Quintero had no comments.
Item 16, board appointments Mendes made one appointment, and Brandau made three to various local committees and boards.
Item 17 This part of the meeting is for public comments regarding items not on the agenda. Two election deniers who had spoken earlier thanked the board, appearing to believe that the board acted to reject the ballot-printing contract based on their comments. Eleven people, most in purple SEIU2015 union T-shirts, implored the board to raise wages for In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers. Several of them said that McDonald’s workers make more money “flipping burgers” than they do caring for incapacitated people who need round-the-clock care. One of them pointed out that the county was spending money on “Los Angeles lawyers” to fight the state law which changed the name of a county town, but the board was reluctant to pay IHSS workers a living wage. Three people spoke in Spanish and were aided by a translator.Items 18-25, closed session The board recessed to closed session at 12:25 p.m. Items included a variety of ongoing and potential litigation, real estate negotiation and labor negotiation. Cederborg said there would be something to report at the end of the closed session, but the webcast did not resume as of 5 p.m.
These notes have been corrected to reflect that the Fresno County Elections Office received three bids for vote-by-mail services.
If you believe anything in these notes is inaccurate, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Correction Request” in the subject line.