County of Fresno addresses encounter with Assemblyman Arambula
FRESNO, CA., Tuesday, July 21, 2020 – On Friday, July 17, several Fresno County Supervisors were confronted at the Hall of Records building in downtown Fresno by California State Assemblyman, Joaquin Arambula. The Assemblyman made several accusations critical of the County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and demanded that Supervisors hold a special emergency meeting, implying the County has lacked a sense of urgency and transparency in its efforts.
“Throughout this pandemic the County has worked to maintain the highest level of communication and transparency with the public, community partners, business sectors, the media, and our legislative representatives,” says Buddy Mendes, Chairman, Fresno County Board of Supervisors. “For him to show up unannounced with cameras rolling and levying false accusations was nothing more than a shameful publicity stunt and an attempt to politicize a whole-community challenge. If the Assemblyman feels he is not receiving the information he needs, he can return our calls and we will be glad to bring him up to speed.”
The Board of Supervisors and the County Administrative Office received a letter from Arambula on Wednesday, July 15, in which he voiced concerns of the continued spread of the virus in Fresno County, inviting further discussion with the Supervisors on how to best address the challenges faced by local communities.
Upon receipt of the letter, the County Administrative Office reached out to Arambula’s office and spoke to a member of his staff in an effort to schedule a meeting and discuss his concerns. A follow up call to Arambula’s office on the morning of July 16 was not returned.
However, following submittal of his letter to the Board of Supervisors, rather than connecting with the CAO for more information, Arambula immediately reached out to several local media outlets to begin a publicity campaign which attempted to malign the efforts of the County and the Board, calling into question response efforts without having met with County officials to discuss his concerns.
“We value the support of our state representatives and welcome any opportunity to maintain a dialogue that will help advance the needs of our community,” says Mendes. “The questions in his letter are concerns we all share for the health and safety of Fresno County and something that we have spent months working tirelessly to overcome. I was glad to open the door for a productive conversation with the Assemblyman to help move our recovery forward, but it’s clear by the ambush tactics he chose that he is only truly interested in generating headlines for himself.”
Arambula arrived at the Hall of Records building the morning of July 16, in a more subdued manner without cameras. Despite his claims that he has not spoken with the Board of Supervisors, during this visit he had an extended conversation with Supervisor Sal Quintero’s staff. He also had an opportunity for a direct conversation with Supervisor Nathan Magsig as he greeted Arambula in passing.
Arambula declined this opportunity, as it seems without a camera present such an interaction would not lend itself to his desired dramatic effect.
On July 17, having still not connected with the CAO or Supervisors, Arambula again arrived unannounced at the Hall of Records building, this time joined by a member of his staff and a photographer from the Fresno Bee, both of whom had video cameras rolling in anticipation of the expected interactions.
Arambula first confronted County Administrative Officer, Jean Rousseau, aggressively questioning plans to implement COVID-19 recovery spending and repeating claims that the County has lacked transparency. Rousseau briefly outlined numerous occasions in contrast to those claims, including regular public updates by the Department of Public Health officials, Board actions to implement support measures including the recent award of HUB Grant funds to 1,000 local small businesses, and referring to his own presentation to the Board of Supervisors during their July 7 public meeting, which outlined proposed COVID-19-related recovery spending plans and expenditures to date.
Footage of this interaction taken by Arambula’s staff and the Fresno Bee has not yet been published.
Following this encounter, members of the Board of Supervisors were returning to their offices from a meeting when they were also confronted by Arambula with the same aggressive questioning and accusations. Supervisor Mendes invited Arambula to his office to discuss his concerns, which the Assemblyman denied, choosing instead to perform for the cameras in the public lobby.
Supervisor Nathan Magsig then initiated a conversation with Arambula to cool him down and hear his concerns. He also provided several suggested action items for Arambula, including that he “go back to Sacramento” and advocate for support of Fresno County residents and request that the Governor restore local control, empowering local governing bodies to make decisions based on the specific needs of their communities.
Unfortunately, the Fresno Bee made the choice to remove most of this interaction from their published footage.
Continued Mendes, “Everyone is frustrated with COVID-19. We’re all doing everything we can to keep our County safe, get businesses opened up and get our economy on track. The last thing anyone needs is a political sideshow, which is exactly what this attempted to be. The way Arambula handled this was absolutely unacceptable and I resent that he has wasted all of our time for the sake of his theatrics. We don’t do Seinfeld acts about nothing. If he wants to talk, let’s talk and get things done.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, the County has continually worked to share timely critical information, provide regular updates and resources, and modify reporting to meet needs and effectively convey appropriate messages. Some of these efforts include:
- Media/public briefings with Department of Public Health 2-3 times per week
- Weekly Public Health briefings with local groups including healthcare providers, schools, local government
- Public Health incident briefings three times per week that include representatives from the County, City, State, schools, local healthcare
- Daily updates of COVID-19 data and statistics, including up to date case numbers, hospitalizations, fatalities, mapping data, demographics, etc.
- Regular updates to the County’s COVID-19 website and social media platforms with the most current resources and information.
- Public updates regarding available funding, expenditures, proposed spending plans, assistance programs.
The County of Fresno continues to maximize efforts to provide full transparency in our efforts to fight against COVID-19 and provide necessary support to our community during this unprecedented time. The County is committed to keeping our community, partners, and leaders up to date on the impacts in our region, our efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and plans to safely move Fresno County forward in our recovery.