The political unrest in the smallest incorporated city in Stanislaus County came following a Grand Jury report in December that found the city councilmen violated a state public meeting law and conspired to fire City Manager Joe Donabed.
The three councilmen in question, Thom Crowder, Doug Humphreys and Ben Manley have been under pressure from Hughson Mayor Ramon Bwanon, Councilman Matt Beekman and a Citizens Group to resign.
On Feb. 8, the Citizens for Better City Government announced its intention to launch a recall campaign to remove the three city councilmen in question.
On March 24, the Citizens Group was authorized to circulate its recall petitions. The Citizens for Better City Government launched a grassroots campaign over the weekend.
The grassroots campaign gathered more than 1,000 signatures for each officer under threat of recall. With roughly 3,000 registered voters in Hughson, the group collected signatures from one-third of the voting population.
“We are proud of the well organized grassroots effort made over the weekend, and it is our sincere hope that the voters can put this issue to rest at the ballot box,” said George Carr, Chairman for the Citizens for Better City Government.
“By allowing the voters of Hughson to decide the conclusion of this crisis we will help return our city back to a normal state of operation. That will save more money then it costs to recall these men. Make no mistake about it, this recall is absolutely necessary.”
For now, the recall is in the hands of the Elections officials who have 30 days to determine if the pro-recall movement has enough valid signatures to qualify an election.
If at least 753 signatures are valid, the matter goes to the voters in a special election who will vote on whether or not the councilmen are removed and then who will replace them.
The three councilmen in question have responded to the situation by attacking the Civil Grand Jury Report, calling the Civil Grand Jury “unconstitutional” and “idiotic.”
Councilman Crowder has consistently attacked the citizens group, calling them “contentious little rats,” “nauseating”, “pea brained”, and “disingenuous scumbags.”
“We are interested in hearing what Councilman Crowder has to say about the 1,000 citizens who agree with us Pea-Brained Scumbags” said Bob Newman, a recall proponent and a resident of Hughson.
The decision to submit the recall petitions so quickly was made to ensure a clean process. Opponents of the recall began to subvert the recall process by circulating their own counter-petitions.
By submitting their petition first, the pro-recall movement blocked the ability of the counter-petitions to cut into the number of signatures submitted for review. The pro-recall movement maintains hat should their petitions qualify a recall election, they will be successful in removing the councilmen from office.
James Spencer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org