Insurance discussion sparks new fight over Granite Park in Fresno

The operator of Fresno’s ailing Granite Park is again facing questions, this time over the apparent lack of insurance coverage for the park, two Fresno lawmakers argued Wednesday.

Fresno City Council members Garry Bredefeld and Mike Karbassi held a news conference at City Hall Wednesday in which they disclosed an email from the city’s insurance coverage advisor to an attorney for the Valley Community Sports Foundation. Central (CVCSF), the Frazier nonprofit organization that manages Granite Park. , about an apparent lack of insurance.

Without insurance coverage, Bredefeld and Karbassi expressed concern that the city could be jeopardized by an expensive lawsuit if someone is injured at Granite Park at an event, such as one of the many baseball games played there.

“Someone could be seriously injured and sue the city for tens of millions of dollars, and we would have absolutely no protection,” Bredefeld said. “Someone can end up drinking, hurt someone, kill someone; the city can be sued for tens of millions of dollars without any protection. The city council is aware of this and is completely remiss in fulfilling its fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers, to the voters.”

With the council holding a special meeting Thursday, Bredefeld said a person in the city administration made a request to council president Nelson Esparza to discuss the breach of contract during a closed session.

Esparza released a statement during the press conference saying there was never a request to put the item on the agenda.

Bredefeld Response: “I can tell you with certainty that it’s a lie because I know city staff, and I don’t want to jeopardize someone who is a member of city staff, but it’s an absolute lie. But there is nothing new. They often lie.”

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Along with Esparza, Bredefeld also referred to Council members Esmeralda Soria, Miguel Arias and Tyler Maxwell, whom he has described as the “Gang of Four.”

Soria is Frazier’s fiancée.

Their relationship has prompted the two-term lawmaker to recuse herself from a wide range of council discussions about Granite Park and Frazier, in particular a proposed $4.3 million deal for Frazier, which was pulled at the last minute last June when Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp opened an investigation into alleged violations of the Brown Act.

Bredefeld said he became aware of this problem in the last two weeks and called out the lawmaking bloc for not addressing it immediately, which is keeping the city at grave risk.

“It should have been addressed in the closed session tomorrow. The council president, who is a certified member of the corrupt Gang of Four, refused,” Bredefeld said.

“Why? Why wouldn’t you want to address this issue? Why would I want to wait a dan longer than necessary to address this issue? Well, it’s because we have a corrupt Gang of Four, and this is more of that sort of thing.” corruption where we just turn a blind eye to a developer/operator in Granite Park who has been doing this kind of thing for years.”

In an email dated March 30, James Wilkins, legal counsel for the city, detailed to CVCSF attorney David Weiland how Frazier has not honored his contract to operate Granite Park.

“CVCSF has not purchased the insurance required by the Granite Park contracts. These failures are serious and constitute material breaches of the requirements of the contract. The City agreed to provide a conditional use permit, but required insurance to protect the City from increased exposure associated with the supply, sale, and distribution of alcohol,” Wilkins wrote.

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“CVCSF has not complied with the material terms of its contracts with the City. The City Council has made it clear that CVCSF must immediately remedy these breaches. In the meantime, no furniture, sales or distribution of alcohol is allowed in Granite Park.”

Bredefeld and Karbassi also provided an email from the city to CVCSF’s attorney in March 2021 detailing that Frazier breached the contract for various issues, including failing to install required improvements and installing unauthorized improvements.

Although Karbassi joined Bredefeld, he said his discontent lies solely with Soria and Arias.

Karbassi and Soria are currently running against each other for the open 27th Assembly District, but Karbassi said the race was not a factor in his decision to join Bredefeld to speak.

Karbassi joining Bredefeld on Thursday was in itself a statement.

Bredefeld earlier held a news conference at City Hall to discuss how each member of the quartet spends their district’s funds, calling their budgets “kickback funds,” and accused them of using taxpayer money on personal and campaign spending. .

“They have already threatened me,” Karbassi said. “I have been told that if I do this, if I ever come here with Garry, it will be used against me, that I will lose funding for this in my district, for that in my district.”

While Karbassi noted that this specific issue is a big deal, he called it “nothing” compared to other behind-the-scenes developments at City Hall.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that I can’t share with you because it’s attorney-client privilege,” Karbassi said. “I am physically tired. I’m exhausted from having to go through this all the time. I come here to work, take care of my residents. This is not about partisan politics. It’s about ethics, and unfortunately we’re dealing with a case that yes, a developer has a relationship with a board member, and that’s haunted us for a long time.”

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Karbassi said Frazier is “getting a lovely deal” from the city and called on Mayor Jerry Dyer, the US Attorney’s Office and “the powers that be to move on and do something about it,” adding that he is fed up with Soria and Arias holding the city hostage.

Smittcamp, the top Fresno County prosecutor, confirmed the existence of a federal investigation into the affairs of the city council.

GV Wire previously reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was evaluating three lines of investigation related to the city’s business, including the city’s dealings with Frazier and former Rep. TJ Cox (D-Fresno) in managing Granite Park contracts. with CVCSF.

When asked about the lawsuit Frazier filed against the city, former Mayor Lee Brand and former City Manager Wilma Quan alleging racism, Bredefeld called it “total nonsense.”

“That’s what it is,” Bredefeld said. “It’s a bogus lawsuit to stop these people and say, ‘If you give us $4.3 million, we’ll drop this $10 million lawsuit.’ It’s a load of garbage. It’s ridiculous. There are a lot of things the previous administration was – racist was not one of them, but it is just a tool to try to extort City of Fresno taxpayers. And it was going to be successful until our district attorney investigated them for violations of the Brown Act, which, incidentally, the corrupt Gang of Four refused to participate in.”