HANFORD — A group of Hanford residents are one step closer to getting a recall election for Hanford City Councilman Francisco Ramirez.
Bob Ramos and others handed a stack of papers with what he said were signatures from over 1,000 registered voters in Ramirez’s City Council District D at 1:15 p.m. Monday.
Ramos said the recall effort is taking place because Ramirez has been deceitful and caused mistrust with his constituents.
In May, the group filed a notice of intent to circulate a recall petition. The group submitted 25 validated signatures of registered voters in District D, only 20 of those signatures were needed to make the notice valid.
The notice accused Ramirez of "corruption and disregard for the law" as well as "malfeasance."
Specifically, the notice alleged that Ramirez raised more than $1,000 when he ran for the District D council seat in 2014.
Ramirez filed a form with the California Fair Political Practices Commission stating that he raised less than $1,000 and therefore wasn't required to create a campaign finance committee and file regular campaign finance reports.
Ramos said a June 2016 Kings County grand jury report found that Ramirez raised more than $3,000 in donations and in-kind gifts and did not open a campaign bank account as required by the commission.
“We, the public, are concerned as to where the money that he collected went,” Ramos said. “It appears it could have been used for personal use.”
The recall notice also claims that Ramirez "knowingly and willfully misled voters" when he said he had two college degrees.
The degrees, which were obtained from online-based Columbia Pacific University, were declared invalid by the California Supreme Court in 2000.
In June, City Clerk Jennifer Gomez approved a petition that recall proponents could circulate in Ramirez's City Council district. They had until Monday at 5 p.m. to turn in at least 853 signatures of verified voters in the district who want Ramirez recalled.
The group did just that. In fact, they received 1,063 signatures, Gomez said.
Gomez’s next step is to take the paperwork to the elections office to verify the signatures as registered voters in Ramirez’s district. If there are at least 853 authenticated signatures, she would then present the City Council with the recall petition and the signatures.
It would then be up to the City Council to set a date for a special recall election to be held in the district.
Ramirez said after the signatures go through the validation process, he believes there will be no recall election because he "wholeheartedly" believes the petition failed.
"They manipulated the voters in my district to get these signatures," Ramirez said Monday afternoon. "I believe they did not meet the criteria."
Gomez said that if the required signatures are submitted, the council is legally required to schedule a recall election. She said California law requires the election be held anywhere from 88 to 125 days after the date that the council acts.
The day after the council sets a recall date, any resident of District D could file their nomination papers to begin campaigning for the council seat against Ramirez.
If there is a recall election, Ramirez said he will "fight tooth and nail" to keep his seat.
"I want to thank all the citizens for their support," Ramirez said. "I will continue to move Hanford forward."
Gomez said the election would be like a normal election, with at least one precinct polling station in District D and absentee ballot voting for those who are registered to vote by mail.
The voters would be asked two questions on their ballots, Gomez said; the first question would ask whether or not they want to recall Ramirez, and the second question would ask that if Ramirez is recalled, who they would want to replace him.
Gomez said it is unknown at this time how long it will take her to authenticate all the signatures at the elections office, but she is starting the process as soon as possible.