State

Last chance to set Hughson recall vote

HUGHSON -- The city stands to spend as much as $23,000 to find out if three council members will lose their elected posts.

The Hughson City Council on Monday will consider setting a date -- staff proposes Aug. 24 -- for the recall election. Voters will consider two matters: whether Councilmen Thom Crowder, Doug Humphreys and Ben Manley should be recalled and who should replace them if they are ousted.

The Elections Code requires the city to set the election between July 23 and Aug. 29; the Stanislaus County Office of Elections will run it.

Residents successfully petitioned for a recall after the Stanislaus County civil grand jury found in December that the three councilmen violated a state law that governs public meetings by conspiring to fire City Manager Joe Donabed.

The grand jury also found that Crowder, who owns an ambulance company, broke a political ethics law by trying to use his elected position to land a job with another provider. Crowder denies the claim.

Several residents have spoken up at City Council meetings, pleading with the men to resign and save the city the cost of the election. Others have spoken in support of the three, saying they are working in the best interests of the city.

If the council agrees with the proposal before it Monday, prospective candidates to replace the men could file beginning May 10 through June 4.

The county estimates the recall election will cost from $13,500 to $22,750. That translates into $4.50 to $6.50 per voter in an election expected to draw 3,000 to 3,500 voters, County Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan said. Council members will consider allocating $23,000 for the election.

Monday is the last opportunity the council has to set an election date. If it fails to do so, within five days county officials will step in and designate a date.

Recall threats and efforts aren't uncommon, but a successful drive that results in an election is.

An effort to recall two Riverbank council members last year failed when proponents couldn't get enough signatures. Riverbank Citizens for Fair Change tried to recall Councilmen Dave White and Jesse James White, his grandson.

The Riverbank recall also had a civil grand jury tie. It recommended in June that Jesse James White be removed from office because he was not registered to vote when he pulled candidacy papers in fall 2008.

State Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, survived a recall election in 2008 prompted by -- depending on who is asked -- either his refusal to vote for a state budget or an about-face on his previous vows to support education and work on a nonpartisan basis.

In 2001, a recall 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.

Livingston is undergoing a recall process for Mayor Daniel Varela and Councilwoman Martha Nateras, with residents angered by their roles in voting for increased water rates. That council is scheduled to consider an election date at its May 4 meeting.

The Hughson City Council meets at 7 p.m. Monday at the Community-Senior Center, 2307 Fourth St.

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