The Fresno Bee has obtained internal documents from Fresno County that shed light on allegations of blackmail, retaliation, and discrimination within the highest echelons of local government. Paul Dictos, the Fresno County Assessor-Recorder who secured a four-year re-election in 2022, finds himself at the epicenter of these allegations.
Although Dictos refrains from providing comments, the memos and accompanying documents, including an event timeline and Dictos’ personal notes, indicate that he claims to have been subjected to blackmail and retaliatory actions by the county’s chief bureaucrat and a county supervisor.
Responding to the allegations, Chief Administrative Officer Paul Nerland dismisses them as “absurd” in an interview with The Bee.
The protracted and contentious arguments revolving around several issues have taken center stage in recent months. These include salary increases for appraisers that Dictos had been advocating for, a departmental reorganization proposed by Dictos, and the promotion of individuals favored by Nerland and Brandau, which Dictos claims he was pressured to implement in his executive team. Furthermore, Dictos’ notes on the event timeline indicate that inappropriate comments, characterized as age discrimination, were allegedly made by Brandau towards Dictos.
However, Dictos’ involvement in the county’s ongoing investigation stems from allegations of inappropriate comments he himself purportedly made about his second-in-command, JoAnn Ebisuda, whom he decided to retain as assistant assessor-recorder. According to notes and correspondence exchanged between Dictos and Nerland, Dictos asserts that Nerland and Brandau exerted pressure on him to remove Ebisuda from her current role and appoint Peter Filippi as assistant assessor-recorder. Dictos expresses his view in the documented timeline of events, stating, “The bottom line is, I am being retaliated.”
According to Cederborg’s letter, the allegations regarding inappropriate comments made by Dictos about Ebisuda, his assistant assessor-recorder, did not originate from Ebisuda herself. In one of the various letters and memos obtained by The Bee, Nerland accuses Dictos of expressing complaints about Ebisuda during a lunch meeting between the two.
This memo was sent after Dictos had decided against adding Filippi to his executive team. Within the same memo, Nerland informs Dictos that he had previously mentioned Filippi’s positive reputation within the County and how he could assist Dictos in gaining credibility with the Board of Supervisors on the issues Dictos had been advocating for. Filippi had been employed by the county since 2007 and retired as a supervising appraiser on March 31.
Regarding the allegations of retaliation against Dictos, Nerland dismisses them as “absurd” and emphasizes that investigations are based on factual information. He further asserts that politics will not supersede the commitment to doing what is right during an investigation, or at any other time.