Fresno Advisor Tells His Stance in Defamation Lawsuit Filed Against Coworker – GV Wire

In a new court filing, Fresno Councilman Nelson Esparza recounts his version of a dispute that led him to file a libel suit against a co-worker.

The case revolved around a private meeting Esparza held in April with former city attorney Douglas Sloan.

Councilman Garry Bredefeld later accused Esparza of trying to “extort” Sloan at the meeting and said Sloan’s job was in jeopardy. Esparza then sued Bredefeld for defamation.

Sloan, in a rare move, publicly shared details of his conversation with Esparza, seemingly in support of Bredefeld’s account. Sloan has since left Fresno for a similar position with the City of Santa Monica.

On April 21, the city council held a discussion on a resolution to prevent members from “weaponizing” the city attorney to investigate other council members. The board also discussed Sloan’s work performance – a regular occurrence – during the day’s closed session.

The next day, Sloan “made an unscheduled stop” in Esparza’s office, according to the court filing, to discuss the previous day’s meeting.

“Esparza advised Mr. Sloan that, in his assessment, several council members were upset that his city attorney’s office had been weaponized for partisan purposes by council member Garry Bredefeld. Plaintiff further informed Mr. Sloan that he was not currently inclined to vote for termination but that as a voting member of Council he wanted assurances that the previous night’s resolution would be honored and respected. At no time did plaintiff Esparza order, direct, imply or suggest to Mr. Sloan that he should only work for “the majority” of the Council or only for certain members of the Council to the exclusion of all others “, indicates the file.

Bredefeld filed a anti SLAPP motion, which is a legal decision to dismiss a lawsuit claiming protection of free speech. Esparza countered that because Bredefeld spoke at a private press conference, his statements were not made in a protected public forum.

Did Sloan violate attorney-client privilege?

Some of Esparza’s arguments were technical — an anti-SLAPP petition cannot be filed until a lawsuit is served, which it has not. Esparza’s attorneys also accused Sloan of breaching attorney-client privilege by speaking publicly about their April conversation.

Esparza also objects to the inclusion of some evidence from Bredefeld, including Sloan’s statements about what happened at a closed April city council meeting.

Bredefeld’s attorney filed a response, arguing that what happened in camera and Sloan’s accounts are fair game; and the press conference took place within the normal course of the councillor’s duties.

The anti-SLAPP motion is scheduled for June 29 in Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan’s courtroom.

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