HUGHSON — Dozens of volunteers spent the weekend collecting signatures of registered voters in their attempt to recall three city councilmen.
The Citizens for Better City Government submitted petitions this week targeting Councilmen Thom Crowder, Doug Humphreys and Ben Manley. The three were cited in a December Stanislaus County civil grand jury report that found they violated a state public meeting law and conspired to fire City Manager Joe Donabed.
"The support from the people was overwhelming," committee member Bob Newman said in a news release Monday. "It was tiring to walk 12 hours a day, but each (go get em!) and (atta boy!) kept the motivation for those of us walking strong."
Political consultant Josh Whitfield said 43 people worked to collect more than 1,000 signatures on each petition. Interim City Clerk Annabelle Aguilar will give a rough count of the signatures, then send the petitions to county Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan's office for checking.
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Lundrigan said Monday afternoon her office is awaiting the petitions. When they are received, her staff will check signatures against voter tallies and give that information back to the city. That process can take up to 30 days.
If at least 753 of the signatures are valid — the number is 25 percent of Hughson's registered voters — the matter goes before the City Council, which must set an election date.
Voters will be asked to vote on two matters: the recall of the three councilmen and who should take their places if they are removed. A successful recall requires 50 percent of the vote plus one.
Crowder said he doesn't believe the recall will proceed, or if it goes to a vote, that he will be removed from office. What's more, he's reversed his earlier stance to leave office when his term concludes in November and announced on his Facebook page that he intends to run for mayor.
"I've got a lot of supporters that want me to run," he said Monday. "They think this recall is a waste of money, a waste of time."
Crowder said he won't enter the race if another viable candidate comes forward, but he hasn't seen that happen.
Never one to shy away from strong words, Crowder called the group seeking his ouster "pea brains" and "disingenuous scumbags."
"My mouth gets the best of me sometimes, but there's always an end point to that," he said. "I don't just yell for the sake of yelling."
He admitted sometimes his remarks aren't advisable, but that "I've never been afraid to confront anything I've said. ... I'm not afraid of these knuckleheads."
Committee member Pete Glen said that the voters should — and will — have the last say.
"I believe that the voters of Hughson are the best choice to put their own government in order," he said. "By sending the question of recall to the ballot, the voters will be the final jury, and I believe that our case will win a strong majority of Hughson voters."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.