HUGHSON -- City Council members unanimously approved a response to a critical Stanislaus County civil grand jury report Monday night, but the men agreed on very little else.
The grand jury found in December that Councilmen Thom Crowder, Doug Humphreys and Ben Manley violated a state open meeting law, conspired to fire City Manager Joe Donabed and pushed their agenda ahead of the city's.
The grand jury said the three should step down or be removed from office, and that the council should get more training in open government and conduct its business transparently.
Mayor Ramon Bawanan wrote a response on behalf of the city; because the response came from the city as a whole, his proposal went before the council Monday night.
Crowder sought -- and got -- several changes. Bawanan's assertion that "the respondent agrees with the finding" that the three councilmen should resign was removed on a 3-2 vote, with Bawanan and Councilman Matt Beekman dissenting.
The meeting was contentious, ending with Crowder and Manley suggesting that Bawanan resign and Bawanan -- as he does at every meeting -- demanding the resignations of Crowder, Humphreys and Manley.
Crowder cited a grievance filed by a union representative, claiming that Bawanan broke the law when he filed a police report about a stolen computer part that was not stolen and a break-in that did not happen.
Crowder said he is seeking an investigation and if that grievance is found to be based in fact, "I would like to ask for your resignation this evening."
Manley claimed that Bawanan repeatedly lied to him when asked if he spoke with Donabed -- who was on leave at the time -- the October night the break-in was alleged.
Acting City Clerk Annabelle Aguilar said that the Citizens for Better City Government filed three notices of intent to recall Crowder, Manley and Humphreys with the city Feb. 16.
"The recall of these council members has officially begun," she said.
Dianne David, spokeswoman for the group, said the recall will continue.
Resident Nancy Hinson spoke in support of the three, lauding Crowder for bringing an ambulance company to town, Humphreys for volunteering as a firefighter and Manley for getting involved "because he loved his community."
In other action, the City Council:
- Approved on a 3-2 vote an extension of a contract with the city of Riverbank for city clerk services. Riverbank deputy city clerk Annabelle Aguilar has been serving as interim city clerk while the city searches for a permanent clerk. Crowder and Councilman Ben Manley voted against the contract, which gives Aguilar a 5 percent raise because she is working above her pay grade. “I’d like to have a job that gives me a raise after three months, Crowder said. He wanted the city to promote from within for the job.
-Unanimously approved an application for a grant of up to $5 million for a new park at Whitmore and Seventh streets.
-Delayed a decision on hiring an outside technology firm to offer a second opinion on whether personal data was accessed during a computer hacking incident last year. Council members asked to see the information the city’s consultant found in its investigation.