Court Sides With Fresno Council Members in County's Lawsuit

A Fresno County judge has sided with two Fresno city council members who were sued by the county for allegedly violating a 2020 campaign finance law limiting contributions to $30,000. 

Councilmen Garry Bredefeld and Luis Chavez are both running for the county board of supervisors. The county claimed they violated the law by transferring large sums from their city council campaign committees to their campaigns for county supervisor. 

Bredefeld and Chavez disputed the county’s assertion that campaign transfers are essentially the same as contributions. The city also sued to have the ordinance clarified, since the county’s position would have forced the city to amend its own campaign finance laws. 

On Friday, Judge Jon Skiles ruled the county’s interpretation of the law unconstitutional. That means the county cannot cap intra-candidate transfers of contributions.

Bredefeld and Chavez praised Friday’s court decision and accused the county of ‘weaponizing’ the legal system to help supervisor incumbents. Chavez is challenging Supervisor Sal Quintero for the District 3 seat. Bredefeld is running against incumbent Steve Brandau in District 2. 

“The transfer of campaign donations from one account to another campaign account is something that’s done all the time in political campaigns in California; it’s nothing new, it’s completely legal,” said Bredefeld in a quote from the Fresno Bee.  

According to Bredefeld, just last year, two county supervisors transferred over $400,000 from their 2022 campaign committees to their 2026 re-election campaign accounts.

The county has denied it was targeting any specific candidates with its interpretation of the 2020 law and notes that the rest of the law is still in effect. County counsel is considering options for appeal.