Voters in Stanislaus County's smallest city resoundingly voted to remove three councilmen accused of corruption from their seats.
With all precincts counted in Tuesday's special recall election, nearly 90 percent of voters called for the removal of Councilmen Thom Crowder, Doug Humphreys and Ben Manley. The question for Manley was moot because he resigned earlier this month.
Taking their places will be, respectively, George Carr, 52, a technical analyst for AT&T; Jeramy Young, 38, a Modesto police sergeant; and Jill Silva, 46, assistant chief probation officer for Stanislaus County.
"I'm anxious to get started," Silva said Tuesday night. "I want to delve into the issues we've been talking about for so long."
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Tuesday's vote marks the final act in a nine-month effort that started with a Stanislaus County civil grand jury report accusing the men of violating a state open government law by discussing city business by e-mail.
Crowder did not fight the recall; Humphreys, a firefighter in San Jose, said he would but he wouldn't spend a lot of money trying to stay on the council. None of the men submitted a statement for the recall ballot.
Although each potential seat garnered two contenders, the races were not contentious: The candidates shared a single election night party at the IOOF Hall.
Young said he's ready to get to work.
"The easy part's over," he said. Among other pressing matters, the city is operating without a budget nearly two months into the fiscal year.
The targeted councilmen admitted they may have sent the e-mails inappropriately, but they said they believed they were acting under the guidance of then-City Attorney John Stovall and didn't intentionally circumvent the law.
The grand jury said Crowder, who owns an ambulance company, tried to use his influence as an elected official to gain favor with a competitor for a potential job. Crowder denied the charge.
Josh Whitfield, consultant for the Committee for Citizens for Better City Government, said the group now is focused on healing Hughson and moving beyond the past.
"Tomorrow Doug Humphreys and Thom Crowder are still going to put on uniforms and save people's lives," Whitfield said. "Ben Manley is still going to be a generous donor to the community."
That said, it was clear the three no longer could serve in elected office.
"You must hold government accountable," Whitfield said. "Corruption shouldn't have stood yesterday, did not stand today and will not stand tomorrow."
This is the first recall election in the area since a failed 2008 effort to remove state Sen. Jeff Denham, R- Atwater. Twenty miles to the south, Livingston Mayor Daniel Varela and Councilwoman Martha Nateras face a recall election next week for their roles in voting for increased water rates.
An effort to recall two Riverbank council members last year failed when proponents couldn't get enough signatures. The last successful recall was in 2001, when an election prompted by a dispute over water rights, out-of-district water sales and management practices ousted Henry Burtschi from the Oakdale Irrigation District board.
In conceding to Silva, Gonzales said he is looking forward to running for the council again in the regular November election, when three seats — including what will be Carr's — are up.
"It's time to get the city of Hughson back together, moving forward, and bring some healing to all the citizens in the community," Carr said. "And basically, I start running for re- election tomorrow."
Interim City Clerk Michele Winterbottom said the city has scheduled a special council meeting Friday night to consider the results of the election.
Stanislaus County Clerk Lee Lundrigan said although she certifies the election results, she doesn't declare a winner — that's left up to the city. The meeting is set for 6 p.m. at City Hall, 7018 Pine St.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2343.