Armed with a letter from the state’s political watchdog exonerating him of any wrongdoing, Mayor Jerry Dyer turned a negative story published last week by The Fresno Bee into a showcase for his One Fresno Foundation’s efforts in for disadvantaged young people.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday morning, Dyer – without mentioning The Bee by name – criticized the story and pointed out that it was based on anonymous allegations made to the State’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
He called the motives of those behind the complaint “purely political”.
After the press conference, the mayor’s press secretary distributed copies of the FPPC letter. “The Enforcement Division will not be pursuing this matter,” the letter dated January 25, 2022 said.
Dyer: “We are a good foundation”
Surrounded by foundation board members outside City Hall, Dyer said, “We are a good foundation. … and we have completed all the files. Everything is available online and easy to access.
The anonymous complaint related to alleged imposed payments. An example of an enforced payment is a donation solicited by officials on behalf of a non-profit organization. The FPPC states that “officials must report imposed payments within 30 days of the date the payment reaches or exceeds $5,000 from a single source. ”
Payments from Governor Newsom and Behested
Compulsory payments are common in California. Earlier this month, The Associated Press reported that “Gov. Gavin Newsom has solicited donations totaling nearly $227 million from Facebook, Google, Blue Shield and other private California companies and organizations to help fight the coronavirus pandemic and help run parts of his administration (according to the FPPC ).
Where did this money go?
Much of Facebook’s $27 million went to gift cards for nursing home workers. In another example, California’s Blue Shield donated $20 million for state programs for the homeless.
One Fresno’s 2022 goal is $1 million
Donations to the One Fresno Foundation have been much more modest.
Dyer said that in 2021, the nonprofit banked about $210,000. These contributions enabled 408 underprivileged young people to attend Fresno Camp at Dinkey Creek and 9,000 youngsters and family members to visit the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, he said. The foundation also backed Dyer’s signing Beautify Fresno efforts.
Dyer said he began formulating his vision for the nonprofit even before deciding to run for mayor.
“I wanted to bring together people who care about Fresno and who could help our young people, especially our disadvantaged young people,” he said. “I wanted to give them a chance to experience things that they don’t normally have.
“Too often young people get involved with the criminal justice system and we ask, ‘What happened? Our goal is to expose them to a different way of life.
The mayor said One Fresno would like to raise $1 million in 2022 and send more young people to Camp Fresno and the zoo.
Additionally, he plans to award scholarships to high school graduates that would help pay for their college or technical education. Another goal: to expand summer mentoring programs.
Forced payments generate controversy
Campaign watchdogs are split into two camps on imposed payments, Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, told The Associated Press.
Some believe these contributions “are the work of the devil, and they’re clearly a loophole around contribution limits and people are just giving them out to curry favor with elected officials,” Levinson said.
However, Levinson said she belongs to the camp that believes money will inevitably flow through politics and otherwise go into campaign accounts or independent spending committees.
“So if people are going to try to curry favor with elected officials, which they will, then let’s at least make sure that money goes to a good cause,” she said.