In the small city of Vernon, resignations come in threes. Mayor Hilario Gonzales announced he was stepping down two weeks ago. Michael Montgomery, the napping city attorney, also cleaned out his desk.
Today, we have the resignation of the biggest fish of them all: Eric Fresch, a lawyer and former city administrator who billed Vernon's power utility upwards of $1 million a year.
Though rarely seen around City Hall, Fresch was seen by many as the power behind the throne in Vernon. His departure is another signal of the city's efforts to stamp out corruption and make a fresh start, after nearly being wiped off the map by Speaker John Pérez.
Fresch came under fire for his lavish compensation package. He billed the city $525 per hour, and often made more than $1 million a year. City officials always maintained, however, that Fresch's “unique” expertise in utility regulations justified that kind of salary.
City Administrator Mark Whitworth said that Fresch left of his own accord. His resignation letter, posted below, states that he will stick around until May 1.
“Eric Fresch has been a significant asset to Vernon over many years, and has demonstrated that time and again,” Whitworth said. “In the going-forward process, we have had concerns from our businesses, and we're addressing those concerns.”
Fresch started with Vernon in 1982. He rose to the position of city attorney under Bruce Malkenhorst, a former Vernon administrator who pleaded guilty earlier this year to misappropriating public funds. When Malkenhorst left in 2005, Fresch succeeded him. He later became a highly-paid consultant.
Vernon (pop. 112) has been plagued by a long history of corruption. But since its brush with disincorporation earlier this year, the city has been trying to turn a new leaf. The voters recently enacted term limits, and the city has been working to implement a long list of reform measures.
Whitworth said that whoever replaces Fresch will have to go through a competitive bid process.
Fresch will stay on for another six months to smooth the transition process, Whitworth said.
“He was able to stand up to the ridicule,” Whitworth said. “He's earned his time to relax a bit.”
Eric Fresch Resignation