Fresno Democrats let prosecutor get away with political bias

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In March 2015, 4 months after her election as Fresno County district lawyer, Lisa Smittcamp introduced the formation of a Public Integrity Unit to analyze public corruption and election-related crimes.

Smittcamp married right into a outstanding agriculture household that repeatedly donates to Republican candidates and causes. However when requested if the particular unit can be used to focus on her political opponents, she gave a swift reply.

“That is preposterous, frankly,” Smittcamp stated throughout a information convention.

Seven years later, the notion does not appear all that preposterous. Whether or not true or not, Smittcamp’s perceived bias in opposition to the elected Democrats (notably these with brown pores and skin) has change into a part of the narrative. To the purpose the place native Democratic social gathering officers just lately joined labor and nonprofit leaders in urging California Lawyer Normal Rob Bonta to analyze Smittcamp and her dealing with of the Public Integrity Unit.

“It is actually time that we maintain, finally, Lisa Smittcamp, accountable for utilizing her workplace to advance her personal private and political agenda,” stated Sandra Celedon, president and CEO of Fresno Constructing Wholesome Communities.

Smittcamp didn’t let the accusations fester. Her workplace shortly issued a information launch welcoming any investigation into the unit and its practices.

“We’re assured that the Public Integrity Unit operates impartial of partisan politics, and its submitting selections are based mostly solely on the info of the case, the relevant regulation, and our skill to show the case past an affordable doubt,” the assertion stated.

Smittcamp’s political stripes have come into query on a number of events, each in instances that concerned the Public Integrity Unit and people who do not.

In 2019, after a jury acquitted Joaquin Arambula of misdemeanor little one abuse, Smittcamp forged doubt on the Democratic Assemblymember’s innocence in media interviews. Then this previous March, she publicly insinuated the wrongdoing of Fresno Metropolis Councilmembers (4 of whom are Latino Democrats) regardless of not charging them with Brown Act violations. The newest imbroglio includes Fresno Metropolis Council President Nelson Esparza and felony extortion fees in opposition to him that seem flimsy, at greatest.

There are different examples, however these are essentially the most obtrusive.

Easy option to maintain Smittcamp accountable

Whether or not any of that deserves a state investigation is as much as Bonta, who hasn’t shied away from inserting his workplace into Fresno-area affairs. But when native Democrats really need Smittcamp held accountable, there are different means.

One ought to be pretty apparent: Problem her in an election 12 months.

I do know, I do know. What a wacky thought.

Working unopposed, Smittcamp secured her third four-year time period as Fresno County DA within the June major. In 2018, she additionally ran unopposed. That means 2014 was the final time Smittcamp needed to concern herself with courting voters in an precise marketing campaign.

By the point Smittcamp’s new time period expires in 2026 (or 2028 if Gov. Gavin Newsom indicators AB 759), she’ll have been handed an eight-year corridor move by native Democrats. The identical of us who at the moment are calling for Bonta to step in.

Fascinating how Fresno County Democrats need the state lawyer normal’s workplace to carry Smittcamp accountable — one thing they’ve didn’t do themselves.

To make sure, unseating incumbents in native races is not straightforward. Title recognition alone lends an enormous built-in benefit. However if you happen to do not even hassle to strive, there’s not a lot room to complain.

smittcamp
Fresno County District Lawyer Lisa Smittcamp Fresno Bee file

If Fresno County had been nonetheless a Republican stronghold, then maybe passivity displayed by native Democrats might be defined and even excused. Newsflash: It is not. Registered Democrats outnumbered their Republican counterparts by 7.5% heading into the June major, in response to the California Secretary of State.

The distinction equals to greater than 37,000 voters. Fairly a head begin on the poll field. But as an alternative of difficult Smittcamp in an election, native Democrats cower and beg for Bonta’s assist.

(Sure, I understand countywide workplaces are thought of nonpartisan. However let’s get actual. Celebration affiliation is massively necessary.)

Democrats give DA a free move in two elections

Whether or not any challenger can garner extra votes than Smittcamp is irrelevant. The purpose is the marketing campaign itself. How else can anybody successfully problem her observe report, or pose probably uncomfortable questions in full view of the voting public?

Native Democrats have abdicated that accountability regardless that they maintain the most important share of the citizens. Both they view Smittcamp as unbeatable, do not have a lot confidence of their potential candidates, or each.

As at present issues stand, Smittcamp has no cause to launch any pertinent details about the Public Integrity Unit. Reminiscent of what number of instances have been investigated, and what number of led to fees and responsible verdicts. Or what number of instances have been investigated by social gathering affiliation, ethnicity or metropolis. Or what number of instances needed to be referred to different companies because of inside conflicts of curiosity. Or what number of taxpayer {dollars} have been spent on the unit since 2015.

If Smittcamp ever felt her elected workplace is likely to be in jeopardy, maybe she’d reply these questions. Merely for transparency’s sake. Nevertheless it is not, and he or she does not. Even public information requests are futile as a result of many of the requested data is taken into account privileged.

Native Democrats had their likelihood to finish Smittcamp to reply for her political biases and a Public Integrity Unit that appears squarely targeted on them. As a substitute, they granted her a free move for 2 election cycles.

Now they need the state lawyer normal to take up a accountability they could not bear themselves. Makes them look sort of weak, to be trustworthy.

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Marek Warszawski writes opinion columns on information, politics, sports activities and high quality of life points for The Fresno Bee, the place he has labored since 1998. He’s a Bay Space native, a UC Davis graduate and lifelong Sierra frolicker. He welcomes discourse with readers however doesn’t endure fools nor trolls.