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Ex-Vernon official found dead in state park

Angelisland

Eric T. Fresch, the former top Vernon official whose tenure became a lightning rod in last year's effort to disincorporate the city, was found dead Thursday evening at a state park in the Bay Area, officials said.

The body of Fresch, 58, was found by rangers at around 6 p.m. at Angel Island State Park, which is located in San Francisco Bay not far from Fresch's home in Tiburon.

Amy Brees, an Angel Island State Park superintendent, said rangers began searching for Fresch after receiving a call Thursday afternoon that he had been cycling on the island but never came home.

"He hadn't returned on the boat he was expected to return on," said Brees, adding that Fresch's body was found in the water near the shore. "We're still investigating the details and don't have a cause of death," she said.

The island features a mix of trails and terrain, including some cliffs. Water is accessible from various points all around the island.

Fresch's death came the same day a state audit was released painting a dire picture of Vernon's finances. The report raised questions about the city's contracting and investment decisions during the time when Fresch was its top administrator. The auditor said her staff could not reach him for an interview despite a deposition subpoena and repeated attempts by process servers to track him down.

Last month, the California Public Employees Retirement System announced that it was slashing Fresch's pension after finding irregularities with it and those of other Vernon officials.

Fresch was widely viewed as the most powerful decision-maker in the city's government in recent years, and made as much as $1.6 million in 2008. He began advising Vernon as an outside attorney in the 1980s and in 2003 became city attorney. He was the city administrator from 2006 to 2009 and moved into a consultant role in 2009. Late last year, Vernon announced Fresch would end his service to the city in May.

The Legislature last year considered disincorporating Vernon after a series of corruption scandals. But the proposal failed after the city agreed to a series of reforms.

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-- Esmeralda Bermudez

Image: A map shows the location of Angel Island State Park, where officials said the body of former top Vernon official Eric T. Fresch was found. Credit: Google Maps

 
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