Sanger's mayor is responding to allegations that he mishandled funds. An article in The Fresno Bee today cites several investigations into his political practices and civil cases filed in court for unpaid bills, both for his former landscaping business and campaign.
Political up-and-comer Josh Mitchell finds himself under attack for the second time in just six months. Nearly a dozen people are cited in the comprehensive article making allegations of financial problems and questionable politics. Mitchell says they're lies and partially blames Bee reporter Pablo Lopez.
"In all honesty, I'm exhausted having to put up with these lies. I'm exhaused with all these accusations he keeps throwing my way," said Mitchell.
Court records show several companies have sued Mitchell for unpaid bills related to his former landscaping business. His former campaign fundraiser, Jerry Duncan, tells CBS47 that Mitchell owes him more than $15,000.
There's also the issue of a $500 check Mitchell apparently cashed at Buy and Bye Market in Sanger. It was made out to the City of Sanger, not Mitchell. A clerk cashed it anyway, but the owner didn't take it to the bank because he knew the bank wouldn't take a check from a third party. The store owner says he's disappointed that Mitchell paid him back only after police got involved, two months later.
"We look at him as the first person to do everything right. But i don't have no personal problem with him," said Alex Hussein, co-owner of Buy and Bye Market.
Political analyst Don Larson says many local politicians have overcome similar situations, but Mitchell's political future may depend on his transparency during this crucial time.
"People are pretty forgiving. They don't necessarily hold mistakes against an individual, but they want to see what the individual does about the mistakes," said Don Larson, CBS47's political analyst.
Mitchell spent much of Wednesday on the defensive. He says for some reason, the Bee reporter must have it out for him.
"There were a lot of things that were completely incorrect. As to whether he actually gave me an opportunity to help him out with regard to finding the truth as to what to write about, he never gave me that opportunity," said Mitchell.
The Bee's assistant managing editor, John Rich, sent CBS47 this statement on Wednesday:
"As to the question of whether Pablo tried to reach Mayor Mitchell for comment before publication: The story clearly states, "Mitchell, 31, did not return telephone calls for comment."
Since Mayor Mitchell has now said that Pablo did not attempt to reach him, we will now add: Pablo left voice-mail messages on Mayor Mitchell's cell phone and personal work phone on Friday, April 5. Also on Friday, Pablo sent a text message to Mayor Mitchell's cell phone.
As to any other issues arising from the story: The Bee stands behind what is published."