EDITORIAL: City manager’s ‘inappropriate’ comment about Foster case

At a time when Fresno City Hall should be as transparent as possible about the operations of the Fresno Police Department, Fresno City Manager Bruce Rudd would rather limit inquiries into how a deputy police chief could be dealing drugs right under the noses of the department.

In a news conference Friday, Rudd said it is not “appropriate” for media representatives to dig into the history of the police department’s management structure and personnel. Rudd’s message was clear: Don’t be poking around in police business. The public will be told what City Hall wants to tell them about the department.

Sorry, City Manager Rudd. Our reporters will continue to pursue all aspects of this story.

For example, the city manager likely did not think much of reporter Marc Benjamin’s story published Saturday that detailed how Deputy Police Chief Keith Foster testified in front of a state medical board last year in support of a Fresno doctor known for writing medical marijuana prescriptions and acknowledged that he was one of the doctor’s patients. In addition, a Fresno police detective also testified in the doctor’s behalf, and also admitting in his testimony that he was one of the doctor’s patients.

Amazingly, no one at City Hall seemed to know of such testimony, not Police Chief Jerry Dyer or any of his officers. In fact, the public would not have known about this testimony on behalf of the doctor in The Bee did not ask “inappropriate” questions.

The arrest of a deputy police chief on federal drug charges shook City Hall to its foundation, and you’d think city leaders would be welcoming transparency. This is a time for City Hall to be as open as possible about the case, and not circle the wagons out of fear something else might be discovered by prying reporters.

It is exactly the wrong message for the city manager to send during this difficult time for our community. Rudd’s statement contributes to public cynicism, and makes it much more difficult to get to the truth.

Rudd should be saying that Fresno City Hall and the Police Department will be as open as possible as they work to rebuild public trust from the backlash over the arrest of a deputy police chief on federal drug charges.

And apparently Mayor Ashley Swearengin supports Rudd’s position on “inappropriate questions” because she has allowed the city manager’s remarks to stand as the official position of City Hall.

In a news conference aimed at damage control, Fresno’s leaders have only raised more questions by the closed-door tone of their remarks.