Republican Sen. Andy Vidak, a cherry farmer from Hanford, has raised the ire of the California Fresh Fruit Association over allegations that the Fresno-based farmer group helped cover up reported threats made by an Agricultural Labor Relations Board member.
The dispute was ignited after Vidak said he learned from several sources that Isadore Hall, a newly appointed ALRB board member, threatened several members of the CFFA prior to a state hearing in February. Hall, a former legislator from Southern California, also allegedly vowed to seek retribution against the farmers for opposing him.
The ALRB is a quasi-judicial agency that investigates labor law violations in disputes between farmworkers and growers. Hall has won support from the Senate Rules Committee but awaits confirmation by the full Senate.
Vidak pushed Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, to investigate the threats but he was rebuffed. De Leon’s spokesman Anthony Reyes said the allegations were baseless.
The state Senate doesn’t waste taxpayer resources investigating dubious hearsay accounts of private conversations held in hotel lobbies – and that’s what Senator de Leon clearly and politely communicated to Senator Vidak.
Anthony Reyes, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles.
“The state Senate doesn’t waste taxpayer resources investigating dubious hearsay accounts of private conversations held in hotel lobbies – and that’s what Senator de Leon clearly and politely communicated to Senator Vidak. Any suggestion otherwise is patently ridiculous,” Reyes said.
Undeterred, Vidak also filed an ethics complaint with the Senate Legislative Ethics Committee alleging that de Leon conspired with members of the CFFA to cover up Hall’s actions, a charge that both have denied.
Vidak’s ethics complaint is pending, but he said Friday that he plans to revise it with more specific information.
CFFA’s leadership, however, has not taken kindly to Vidak’s allegations. CFFA president George Radanovich, a wine grower and former congressman, recently fired off a statement strongly refuting the charge that the organization and de Leon made some sort of agreement to make the issue go away. A majority of the association members are San Joaquin Valley tree fruit and grape growers.
“Senator Vidak did not reach out to CFFA to discern whether any statement offered about an agreement was valid,” the statement said. “If he did, he would have learned there is no agreement and that CFFA remains opposed to the confirmation of Senator Hall.”
Vidak said he has spoken with several members of CFFA who are upset with their leaders for “participating in a cover-up of Hall’s threats.”
“Makes you wonder what is going on behind the scenes?” he said. “But that’s for the CFFA to deal with – my concern is that information on Hall’s threatening tirade is being withheld from the Senate by one of the Senate’s leaders.”
A spokesman for the ALRB said neither Hall nor the board would comment on Vidak’s accusations. Instead, J. Antonio Barbosa, the ALRB’s executive secretary, provided an excerpt of Hall’s testimony before the Senate Rules Committee confirmation hearing: “I hope that my record standing up serving as a voice for working families and also as one for business illustrates my deep desire to be fair and just and put the interest of the great people of California first.”