The Fresno County Board of Supervisors (BOS) seems incompetent, indifferent and neglectful as they preside over a county care and service crisis. Several examples of the board’s offensive and obdurate actions are outlined herein.
Generally, counties are responsible for law enforcement; the provision of social services on behalf of the state; the construction, maintenance and repair of roads and bridges; and general control of land use in unincorporated areas. Fresno County is responsible for the provision of social services.
The 2023–24 Fresno County budget is $4.8 billion, with nearly $2.4 billion allocated to the General Fund, which is the County’s primary operating fund. Another $1.8 billion is for special revenue/trust funds, and $109 million is for capital projects.
The Department of Social Services (DSS) has been severely underfunded for years and remains that way. The Board refuses to raise salaries for social workers and adequately fund critical services, while continuing to waste public dollars.
On Oct. 12, at a town hall discussion organized by the Service Employees International Union called “Combating a County Care and Service Crisis,” Fresno City Council Members Miguel Arias and Luis Chavez, both candidates for the BOS, were part of a panel chaired by Assembly Member Joaquin Arambula. The panel also included three DSS social workers: Lorraine Ramirez of Child Protective Services; Ocean Beverly, an eligibility worker; and Karen Shoji from the Department of Behavioral Health. Also on the panel was Socorro Santillan of Planned Parenthood Fresno.
Every panelist spoke of the need for more funding, ways to address staffing and recruitment of social workers and of the extreme poverty in Fresno. Everyone committed to making improvements.
The social workers spoke of high caseloads with up to 350 clients, staffing shortages, low salaries, high staff turnover and a lack of funding for the DSS.
“Folks who come to see us are in bad shape,” said Shoji. “People just don’t get better and things are at a breaking point. We need preventative care as opposed to cleaning up after tragedies.
“This week alone, I’ve witnessed dozens of people with behavioral health emergencies.” She went on to say that sometimes when homeless people show up for services they are literally so hungry they cannot talk.
Beverly noted that “morale is so very low among social workers, the turnover rate is over 104%, there’s very high workloads and call waits are very long with longer wait times in the lobby. Bus tokens and EBT cards are taking too long to get into people’s hands.”
Santillan added that people are winding up in the ER for healthcare and there’s such a lack of mental health support that police have to respond to mental health crises.
As the unfolding tragedy continues, it’s been business as usual at the BOS—incompetence, indolence and vain gloriousness. There are many examples.
In April, the BOS approved a raise for themselves of 10%. In 2022, BOS members made between $144,000 and $160,000 annually. Now, they will all receive full salary lifetime pensions. The supervisors behave as if they have a part-time position, and the self-serving board should not be giving itself any raises.
In another abuse of power, also in April, the BOS approved $225,000 of federal American Rescue Plan funds for the Fresno Garlic Festival, a blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars. These funds could have been used to hire several social workers in a time of dire need. Supervisors Brian Pacheco and Sal Quintero, to their credit, voted against the funding, and Pacheco said it was a misuse of federal funds.
In an example of incompetence, indolence and obdurateness, in April Supervisors Steve Brandau and Buddy Mendes voted to back Supervisor Nathan Magsig’s attempt to overturn the renaming of S— Valley to Yokuts Valley by approving a lawsuit against the State of California. County taxpayers are now paying $350 per hour to outside legal counsel to prosecute a frivolous and poorly written lawsuit.
The author is submitting a CPRA (California Privacy Rights Act) request to determine how many hours have been wasted on the lawsuit.
Below are sections of the demurrer (an objection that an opponent’s point is irrelevant or invalid) from the California State Attorney General submitted to Fresno County:
“The plaintiff’s complaint suffers from numerous fatal defects. As a threshold matter, it was brought by a party that sued the wrong entities, lacks standing to sue, and seeks relief this Court cannot provide. Even if Plaintiff County of Fresno could overcome those substantial hurdles, its amended complaint lacks any cognizable legal theory or valid cause of action. Accordingly, this case lacks merit and should be dismissed.”
The demurrer continues: “In 2021, the Federal Board of Geographic Names (BGN) initiated a process to review and ultimately rename geographic place names under federal jurisdiction which contained ‘SQ,’ an offensive and derogatory term for Native American women.
“As part of that process, BGN invited comment and input from local and state boards concerning the renaming of an unincorporated locality in Fresno County formerly referred to as SQ Valley. In January 2023, the BGN formally renamed the unincorporated entity Yokuts Valley.
“No state entity was responsible for approving this change. Plaintiff thus erred in naming any California entities as defendants in the amended complaint, and the case should be dismissed on justiciability grounds.
“And, even if one or more Defendants had played a role in renaming SQ Valley, a long line of authority establishes that a county lacks standing to bring suit against state entities to vindicate alleged violations of federal constitutional rights because counties are political subdivisions of the State. (See City of Trenton v. New Jersey (1923) 262 U.S. 182, 183, 187, 191-192 (Trenton).)
“As a political subdivision of the State of California, the County is barred by provisions of the California Constitution from bringing an action against the State except in narrow circumstances that do not apply here. Furthermore, the Court lacks jurisdiction to order injunctive relief to prevent administrative agencies from executing validly enacted statutes.
“The amended complaint also fails as a matter of law. Plaintiff’s first cause of action, a challenge to state authority, is deficient for several reasons.”
The lawsuit will be heard in state court on Nov. 2. The frivolous lawsuit, written by, some would say, incompetent lawyers, is a total waste of public dollars that could be used for much needed social services.
Incredibly, on Sept. 19, after realizing their lawsuit was a fiasco, the BOS, on a 3 to 2 vote, voted to place a measure on the March primary ballot to give the county the power “to establish or change geographic feature or place names within the unincorporated portions of the County of Fresno.
“For purposes of this subsection, ‘geographic feature’ means any location or publicly owned structure in the unincorporated County, including, but not limited to, navigable waters, geographic features, parks, local roads, bridges and publicly owned buildings. ‘Place’ means any natural geographic feature or street, alley or other road within the County of Fresno.
“This power does not apply to: Privately owned geographic features, places or land, nor to geographic features, places or land that are subject to the jurisdiction of federal, state or other local governments.” This last sentence appears to recognize the authority of the BGN to rename SQ Valley, which brings into question the sanity of moving ahead with the ballot measure.
At the Sept. 19 meeting of the BOS, Magsig brought up the renaming of S— Valley and Cesar Chavez Boulevard as the impetus for the ballot measure. He continues to dishonestly and shamelessly pander to some of his constituents that are of a settler colonial mindset. And the BOS continues to throw away your tax dollars.
Contact your Fresno County supervisor about the following:
- Drop the frivolous lawsuit by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors against the State of California relative to the renaming of S— Valley to Yokuts Valley. Stop this abusive waste of taxpayer monies now.
- Withdraw the spring 2024 ballot measure that would give the BOS the authority to assign place names in unincorporated areas of Fresno County.
District 1 Brian Pacheco email@example.com
District 2 Steve Brandau firstname.lastname@example.org
District 3 Sal Quintero email@example.com
District 4 Buddy Mendes firstname.lastname@example.org
District 5 Nathan Magsig email@example.com