State

E-mail fails to move Hughson councilman to resign

HUGHSON — For weeks, Councilman Thom Crowder has insisted that if someone could show him an e-mail showing he promised to use his political influence in a job search, he would step down.

He says the e-mail produced this week isn't it.

"This is not the smoking gun e-mail that they were talking about," Crowder said. "When I saw that, I thought, 'You gotta be kidding me.' "

On Monday, Hughson resident Todd Brownell brought copies of an e-mail between Crowder, owner of an ambulance company, and a manager of another service provider. In it, Crowder cites his "years of experience in Stanislaus, business and political," and purports to have "tremendous influence with the Board of Supervisors."

The Stanislaus County civil grand jury cited the e-mail in its December report that found Crowder violated the state Political Reform Act in promising to use political influence while seeking a job. The grand jury also found that Crowder and Councilmen Doug Humphreys and Ben Manley violated the Brown Act, the state law that governs public meetings, by conferring on issues over e-mail and plotting to remove City Manager Joe Donabed.

A recall election against the three will be scheduled later this month.

On Monday, Brownell and others, including Councilman Matt Beekman, demanded that Crowder keep his promise to resign.

"At the last meeting, I asked Councilman Crowder to stand by his word," Beekman said. "He did not. Thom, you sent the e-mails. Do everyone a favor and stand down."

But Crowder said he's not going anywhere, and he said the information in the e-mail presented to him didn't break any laws.

At the time, Crowder was considering selling Hughson Ambulance to another provider and asking to be kept on as a consultant.

"I didn't use any names, and as far as influence, anytime you know somebody long enough there's credibility developed," he said. The information included in the e-mail was nothing more than background that would go on any résumé, he said.

"I know how the system operates," he said. "I wasn't saying that based on the fact I have control or power over these guys."

Supervisors Vito Chiesa, whose district includes Hughson, and Jim DeMartini, who sits on the emergency services board, have said Crowder had no influence over them above that of any other constituent.

"Even though we actually do have a relationship, I don't expect special rights and privileges," Crowder said. "What influence does a city council member have over the Board of Supervisors?"

Crowder, who has undergone a series of knee surgeries, said he doesn't recall sending the e-mail.

"To be honest with you, this is right after one of my major surgeries," he said. "I was medicated. Do I recall writing this e-mail? No, I do not."

But he said he wasn't looking for an excuse or denying that he wrote it. "It looks legit," he said. "But again, does it rise to that level that they were hoping it would? Absolutely not. I didn't promise anything."

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.

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