The date has been set; all that’s left is to figure out how the Hughson City Council recall election will be funded.
The Aug. 24 recall election will give Hughson residents a chance to oust City Council members Doug Humphreys, Thom Crowder and Ben Manley. The three were found to be in violation of the Brown Act, Fair Political Practices Commission and Hughson Municipal Code by a December 2009 Civil Grand Jury report.
One of the accused, Councilman Manley, suggested at Monday’s City Council meeting that the 1,000 voters who wanted the recall could each give a donation to fund the election. Regardless of how Manley would prefer the election to be paid for, the City of Hughson will have to fund the recall election after Council members Manley, Crowder and Humphreys voted against paying the county to run the election.
“The city would have to run the election itself, which would be a stand-alone election, that could cost more,” said John Stovall, City of Hughson attorney who announced his retirement on Monday night.
To run the recall election through the City of Hughson, the City will need to obtain certified voting machines, certified ballots, a list of voters that can only be purchased through the County office, someone to verify the signatures, polling places, trained volunteers for the polling places and polling officials, just for starters, said Annabelle Aguilar, City of Hughson Deputy City Clerk. Aguilar has been researching what the City will need to acquire to run the recall election since Monday night’s Council decision to forgo paying the County to run the election for them.
The cost to run the election through the City of Hughson is not known at this time but is expected to top the maximum cost of $23,000 that the County wanted to run the election.
Hughson resident Bud Hill said that other cities have run their own election in the past, such as the City of Patterson, but it cost them twice as much.
“No matter what, it’s going to cost us, we don’t have the time to set it up,” Aguilar said. “All of this entails time, of which we don’t have.”
The recall election has a very specific timeline when things need to be done. The council had to pick a date for the election at Monday’s meeting, giving them a timeline from 88 to 125 days from Monday night to hold the election. During that time, the City of Hughson must also hold a proposed candidate nomination filing period to fill the potential seats of Humphreys, Crowder and Manley.
This filing period will be from 8 a.m. on May 10 until 5 p.m. on June 4. The ballot will consist of the question to recall each individual officer, the names of the candidates nominated to succeed the officer sought to be recalled and a blank line to write in a name not printed on the ballot.
City employees share sexual harassment experiences
Five female employees took a stand at Monday’s meeting to expose the “divide and conquer” type of administration they have been dealing with from an unnamed city employee and city official while they said the city manager did nothing to stop the sexual harassment.
“How is it that the Grand Jury found nothing wrong in the administration?” asked Martha Serrato, Hughson city employee. “The city manager brought in his own investigators.”
Serrato stated that, at one point, she had to clean the city manager’s shirt and tie with a Tide pin as he was wearing them.
“I felt degraded,” Serrato said. “Citizens, you have no clue. Put yourself in our shoes.”
Other employees stood up to tell the public that the “sexual harassment did happen.”
City employee Lisa Whiteside said she was present when a city official said there should be a red light district in Hughson and said that Whiteside should sit on a male city employee’s lap because “that is where (she) belongs.”
Every employee that shared their story at Monday’s meeting was disappointed in the lack of help and support from the community, as well as the attack against Humphreys, Manley and Crowder for trying to expose the “dysfunction” in City Hall.
“Shame on you and shame on the community for jumping on the bandwagon and casting your stones,” said Kathy Dahlin, Hughson city employee.
On March 23, an investigation done by an independent investigator was concluded after complaints of a hostile work environment, sexual harassment and a lack of communication with city management and city employees were raised by several City of Hughson employees.
“All of the allegations raised were found to be unfounded, without merit, not based on a protected classification or not true,” reads a letter from Hughson City Attorney John Stovall to City Manager Joe Donabed. Letters with the investigations findings were sent to all personnel involved in the complaints.
The Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury also found “that administrative staff did not commit any acts of ‘willful misconduct’ before or at the time of the accusations,” in their findings that were released on Dec. 22, 2009.
Crowder censured by City Council
Council member Crowder was censured by Hughson Mayor Ramon Bawanan Monday night for calling members of the Citizens for Better City Government “continuous rats,” “pea brains” and “misfits.”
“As Mayor, I have to say something,” Bawanan said.
Not only did Crowder violate the Hughson Municipal Code by name calling, but he also violated his responsibility as a role model for the community.
“Am I sorry for the comments I have made?” Crowder said. “Yes, I am. It was not intended toward a specific person, but for the movement. I take offense to the name calling on my part. I made a mistake and I am not going to do it again.”
All five council members voted to censure Crowder.
“Mr. Mayor, have your way with me,” Crowder said.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.