Local black leaders make a series of demands after dismissal of city clerk

Local News

FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – Local black leaders made a series of demands on Tuesday at Fresno City Hall following the dismissal of city clerk Yvonne Spence in June.

“Pursuant to the Brown Act, we must report the Council has dismissed the city clerk, the vote was 4-3, Councilmember Chavez, Karbassi, Maxwell voting no,” City Attorney Douglas Sloan said on June 14 during a City Council budget hearing.

Sloan added then that it couldn’t be further discussed because it was a personnel matter.

Now, the black community is asking for answers.

“We want the city to realize how disappointed we are in the way that they dismissed Yvonne Spence,” Pastor BT Lewis said.

Eugene Whitlock said he’s representing Spence. Whitlock didn’t want to go on camera but said they don’t know why Spence was fired and that they sent a letter to Sloan asking for the city to address it.

The agenda for Thursday’s City Council meeting now shows an item during closed session, with the subject “CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL-POTENTIAL LITIGATION – Government Code Section
54956.9, subdivision (d)(2): Yvonne Spence v. City of Fresno Sponsor: City Attorney’s Office.”

Through a public records request, Eyewitness News found that Spence started her employment with the city in January of 2012. She was dismissed on June 11, 2021.

Concerns about representation were expressed on Tuesday.

“We wanted them to know that the dismissal of Yvonne Spence was doing harm to our community because she was one of the highest ranking officials in our community,” Lewis said.

Leaders made a series of demands, including the development of an anti racism task force to tackle career advancement opportunities, affordable housing and the inclusion of black leaders.

“Fresno, it is time for change and we are here to insist that chance come, not later, not next year, not 10 years from now, but now,” said Dezie Woods-Jones, the state president of Black Women Organized for Political Action.

Fresno City Council President said he wants to have those conversations and expects them to happen within the next month.

“I think their points are valid. We do need to examine what our makeup looks like and then act accordingly because I think that at the end of the day, the African American community is tired of promises, they want to actually see some action being put toward, that I’m open to that conversation and working with them,” Chavez said.

Eyewitness News reached out to the City Attorney’s Office on Tuesday regarding the matter and the agenda item on Thursday but didn’t get an immediate response back.

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