In a dramatic reversal from two weeks ago of their decision not to fund a special recall election, two of the three councilmen under question of recall voted with the minority to approve funding for Stanislaus Country to administer a Recall Election in the City of Hughson.
For the smallest town in Stanislaus County, Hughson’s government without doubt has brought the most drama in 2010. Earlier in the year, the Stanislaus Civil Grand Jury found Council members Thom Crowder, Doug Humphreys and Ben Manley guilty of Conspiring to fire the City Manager, violating the Brown Act, violating the Hughson Municipal Code, and for Crowder using his seat on the City Council to gain favor for employment.
Since the Grand Jury’s report, the three councilmen in question have denied any wrongdoing and immediately moved to attack the credibility of the Grand Jury itself.
A group of citizens banded together to start what is now known as the Citizens for Better City Government. The citizens group began attending City Council meetings and demanding explanations of the Council’s actions. When none came, the group announced their intention to pursue a recall election.
Though recall threats are not uncommon, a successful qualification of a recall election is rare. In April, the Citizens for Better City Government took Hughson by surprise by launching a surprise blitzkrieg style, 70-hour grassroots campaign in which they collected over 1,000 signatures endorsing a recall. This was an astounding 1/3 of the voting population. The petition phase of the Recall was over as quick as it began and took the anti-recall campaign unprepared and off guard.
Since the signatures were verified and the election qualified, the three city councilmen began to justify their actions. Many Hughson city employees have gone public with claims of Harassment and a Hostile Work Environment.
The city of Hughson then released workers comp claim investigations and independent investigations, all of which concluded the employee’s claims had no merit. Even still, the city employees maintain their argument, even coming to the City Council to tell their story.
One employee claimed she was forced to clean the former City Manager’s shirt with a bleach pen while we was still wearing it. Another said she was told to sit on a City Administrator’s lap.
They employees that have come forward argued that the City Councilmen under question of recall were moved to the actions they took in response to the employee’s cries for help.
During the entirety of the Recall process one Councilmen Crowder has been a huge Vocal supporter of the employees. Claiming their testimony to be a “Smoking Gun” that justified everything he has done. Mr. Crowder has routinely lashed out in angry against anyone who disagrees with him. Calling the Citizens Group “Scumbags, Contentious Little Rats, Pea Brained and Knuckleheads.” Comments that had him unanimously censured by his fellow councilmen for violating the code of conduct.
Many of Hughson’s citizens have been growing tired of the back and forth banter from Crowder and the more vocal Pro-Recall activists. With all the accusations, investigations and emotional personal attacks at City Council meetings, nothing seemed liked it was getting done.
A Hughson citizen asked the question at a previous meeting demanding to know “When are we going to have someone speak with common sense up here?” Another asked, “Who from the Pro-Recall group is going to answer to these harassment allegations?”
Both questions were answered at Monday night’s Council Meeting.
With a full council and a jammed packed community center, the Citizens Group sent out its A-game with the first common sense speech Hughson has heard in a long time.
A young man by the name of Josh Whitfield (click here to see video) stood up and absolutely hammered down the nonsense on both sides of the issue. Whitfield represents the Citizens for Better City Government, but in his speech he spread the love around to everyone, including recall supporters.
It was sort of ironic to see a 22-year-old man give a well-deserved maturity lesson to adults twice his age. He clearly articulated and explained the pro-recall stance, admonished the all of Hughson’s leadership and achieved a standing ovation in a divided room.
He slammed the city council for failing to fund the election already, defended the rights of the people and challenged the councilmen under the question of recall to meet him and his group out of the campaign trail.
I personally was left shocked by the effectiveness of Whitfield’s speech. He effectively scored blow after blow on his opponents, but was able to maintain the moral high ground. The only question I was left with at the conclusion of the meeting was, “Where the heck has this kid been, we could of used this speech weeks ago?” I ask that because this is the first person that has convinced anyone that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel.
Even the Mayor, who promised in February to ask the three councilmen in question to resign at every meeting, said “Josh, I am going to follow your lead, I will no longer ask for resignations at the end of every meeting, let the recall process begin” in his closing statements.
One thing is certain, not everyone may agree with a recall, but they agree with Mr. Whitfield’s plan of a civilized campaign and everyone on both sides would be well advised of to follow his lead.
Bottom line is Whitfield’s comments in Hughson on Monday night was a game changer. Perhaps even a dagger in the heart of the anti-recall argument, and the momentum is squarely with the Citizens for Better City Government.