Fresno County’s charter has not kept up with the times. Originally approved by voters in 1933, it has been decades since the charter has been updated and glaringly outdated provisions obstruct accountability, efficiencies and legal mandates.
On Nov. 8, the voters of Fresno County will have the opportunity to update our charter with the following two propositions: Measure T and Measure U.
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors overwhelmingly voted to support bringing Measure T and Measure U to the voters, and they overwhelmingly support their passage.
Measure T: Probation Department Accountability Reform
To keep Fresno County safe, our Probation Department needs more accountability. The problem exists because of an outdated provision of the Fresno County Charter that creates jurisdictional confusion between the responsibilities of the county and the Superior Court.
Our charter contains an outdated provision at odds with the original intent of Fresno County voters. Charter Section 21 provides for the probation chief, an employee of Fresno County, to be appointed by the Superior Court. Back when this section was written in 1933, the Superior Court was, for practical purposes, part of Fresno County. But that all changed legislatively with the Trial Court Funding Act of 1997, when the state assumed management authority over all Superior Courts in California.
However, the Fresno County Charter was never updated to reflect this significant change; specifically, updating the appointment authority over Fresno County’s probation chief. It is illogical for a state entity, in this case the Superior Court, to have the authority to hire and fire an employee of Fresno County who oversees an entire Fresno County department.
The probation chief is responsible for managing hundreds of county employees, yet, by this outdated provision, is being required to simultaneously serve two different masters. Accountability cannot exist under these illogical circumstances.
By voting “yes,” we will restore accountability to the Probation Department. Like all other department heads, the probation chief will be appointed by the county administrative officer of Fresno County and the Board of Supervisors, but the selection will still be done in consultation with the Superior Court. This change will restore accountability, the courts will still be consulted and the charter will reflect the legislative changes mandated by the state.
In addition to support from numerous community leaders and organizations, Measure T is endorsed by Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims and Fresno County CAO Jean Rousseau.
Measure U: Charter Modernization Act
The Charter Modernization Act enhances a local preference when Fresno County purchases goods and services from local businesses.
Whenever prices, terms and quality are objectively equal, we should be investing our local dollars into our local economy. As a community, we should prefer to purchase local goods, services and supplies within Fresno County. This update will help Fresno County businesses and put our precious taxpayer dollars to the best local use.
The Charter Modernization Act also strengthens the District Attorney’s Office. Currently the DA also serves as the public administrator. Charter Section 15 requires the public administrator to be consolidated with another elected official, and through administrative reorganization, the district attorney was forced into dual responsibilities.
However, these incompatible responsibilities present an inherent conflict of interest for the DA. By changing the public administrator to an appointed position, our district attorney will be able to focus exclusively on promoting public safety and seeking justice for victims of crime.
By voting “yes” on the Charter Modernization Act, we will help Fresno County become more efficient and accountable to us, the taxpayers of Fresno County. In addition to support from numerous community leaders and organizations, Measure U also is endorsed by Smittcamp and Mims.
Andreas Borgeas represents District 2 on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.