The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office has charged City Council President Nelson Esparza with one felony count of attempted extortion and one count of violating the Fresno City Charter. If convicted, Esparza could face up to three years in prison.
Monday’s legal filings echo allegations made by City Councilman Garry Bredefeld in May. Esparza is accused of threatening to fire former City Manager Douglas Sloan unless he provided services exclusively to Esparza and the rest of the Council majority.
According to Bredefeld, Esparza told Sloan, “I’m standing between you and you losing your job.” Sloan — who now works for Santa Monica — has corroborated this account.
Esparza denied the claims and filed a defamation lawsuit against Bredefeld. That suit was later dropped.
“It was not easy to expose the attempted extortion of City Attorney Doug Sloan by Nelson Esparza, and of course, I knew when I did I’d be attacked and was even sued because I did expose,” Bredefeld told GV Wire on Monday.
“Now after a thorough investigation by the District Attorney, charges including a felony have been filed against Mr. Esparza. I believe in the Constitution, due process, and look forward to justice and there being accountability for what occurred,” Bredefeld said.
Esparza continues to deny the allegations.
“At no time did plaintiff Esparza direct, order, imply or suggest to Mr. Sloan that he should work only for ‘the majority’ of the Council or only for any certain Councilmembers to the exclusion of any others,” according to court documents filed by the council president.
“This type of concerning news can cause the community to lose confidence in its government and question the integrity of public officials,” Mayor Jerry Dyer said in a statement Monday. “I want to reassure the public that we in city government will continue to do all we can to maintain their trust and confidence by delivering on the promises we have made to them.”
Esparza’s arraignment is set for Sept. 20.
Image Credit: City of Fresno