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Hughson’s ‘dog and pony’ show stirs up finger pointing

POSTED April 14, 2010 12:02 a.m.
Attempts by the Hughson City Council to fire the city clerk and to gain more control over city hiring practices went unnoticed by many Hughson residents at Monday night’s council meeting. Residents were more interested in making their opinions known about the three council members recently reprimanded by the Civil Grand Jury. A crowd flooded the community center on Monday night and some meeting attendees held up signs reading “Resign Now” to show the three council members that enough is enough.
Hughson City Director of Finance Debbie Paul called Monday’s meeting a “dog and pony” show after three hours of finger pointing.  
“Their job is done and they need to move on,” said Peter Sugia, member of the Citizens for Better City Government. “They have no right to ask for more control.”
After Hughson council members Doug Humphreys, Thom Crowder and Ben Manley were found in violation of the Brown Act, the Hughson Municipal Code and the Fair Political Practices Regulations by the Civil Grand Jury in December 2009, a group of Hughson residents formed a the Citizens for Better City Government to spearhead recall elections to remove the three council members.
At Monday’s council meeting, Hughson Interim City Clerk Annabelle Aguilar announced the receipt of the Certificate of Sufficiency of Recall Petitions targeting the three council members with over 800 verified signatures for Humphreys, Crowder and Manley, moving the recall election forward.
Now the council has 14 days to pick a date for the election. The council must pick the date for the election at their April 26 meeting or at a special meeting called before April 26.
The election must take place between July 23 and Aug. 29, in compliance with the election law, Aguilar said. If the council does not decide on a date for the recall election, Stanislaus County will schedule a date.
Despite the progress on recall elections, a handful of community members, along with two council members, requested Humphreys, Crowder and Manley resign in an effort to save the city the cost of holding a special election.
“Resign and apologize for the mess you have brought to our homes,” said Pete Glen, Hughson community member. “Ethics is doing what’s right 100 percent of the time and that’s what I am demanding of you as my elected official.”
At the March 22 City Council meeting, Crowder announced that if someone could provide him with the e-mails he has been accused of sending by the Civil Grand Jury he would resign.
Hughson resident Todd Brownell provided Crowder with the e-mails after he filed a public information request with the City. At Monday’s meeting, Crowder said he interprets the e-mails differently and will not step down.
Along with the violations found in the December Civil Grand Jury report, the three council members were also found in violation of the California Penal Code because they failed to respond to the December findings within the mandated 90 day period.
Humphreys stated that he sent in his response a while ago and he will give a copy of his response to the Mayor to forward onto the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury.
Manley said that he will send his response “within three weeks” dating it around May 3.
Crowder said he will send in his response after City Attorney John Stovall reviews it, but Stovall refused to represent individuals on the council. He said his job is to represent the council as a whole. Crowder said he plans to speak to Civil Grand Jury Foreperson Denis France himself about his response.
The City of Hughson will not only see a special election taking place this summer, but they are currently without the direction of a city manager. Currently, Thom Clark is performing the duties of acting city manager along with his jobs as director of planning/building and the director of public works/city engineer.
There have been about eight to nine proposals from outside recruiting sources so far to help the City Council hire a new city manager, said Ramon Bawanan, mayor of the City of Hughson. Bawanan, Clark and Humphreys plan to meet next week to pick a recruiting source to start the application process for a new city manager.  
“Sitting without a city manager for three to four months is not prudent,” Humphreys said.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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