Francisco Ramirez recall signatures

Bob Ramos watches as Hanford City Clerk Jennifer Gomez counts signatures gathered in order to hold a recall election for Hanford City Councilman Francisco Ramirez.

Julissa Zavala, The Sentinel

HANFORD —The time is drawing closer to finding out if there will be a recall election for Hanford City Councilman Francisco Ramirez, but Ramirez is sure the recall effort will fall short.

In June, City Clerk Jennifer Gomez approved a petition that recall proponents could circulate in Ramirez's City Council District D.

By Aug. 21, a group of Hanford residents handed a stack of papers to Gomez with 1,063 signatures from registered voters in Ramirez’s district; 210 more signatures than the 853 they needed to possibly get a recall election.

The recall effort is taking place because the recall proponents believe Ramirez has been deceitful and caused constituents to mistrust him. 

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.

The recall group cites a June 2016 Kings County grand jury report that stated 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.

Jay Wierenga, a spokesman for the Fair Political Practices Commission, said the investigation is still ongoing and he can’t comment on open investigations.

On Friday, Ramirez, who has served on the city council since 2014, said the recall group used lies to get residents in his district to sign the petition against him.

He said many residents of his district have told him they thought they were signing a petition in support of him, because that’s what he said they were told.

“The people didn’t realize what they were signing,” Ramirez said. “They were signing against me when they thought they were signing to support me.”

Ramirez said he wanted to thank the citizens for their support, and said he “wholeheartedly” believes the recall petition will fail.

If it does move forward, however, he said he will “fight tooth and nail” to keep his City Council seat.

He said he already has a team ready to go out to residences in his district to talk with constituents; he’ll make phone calls and maybe even send letters to residents if need be.

Gomez said she is not releasing any numbers until she has completed the verification process for all the collected signatures and certifies the results. She said she has spent a couple hours every day verifying signatures, and hopes to be done by Wednesday or Thursday.

If the petition lacks enough valid signatures, then Gomez would notify the proponents and would not need to take anything before the City Council.

However, if the petition has at least 853 verified signatures, then she would take the certification to the City Council at the Sept. 19th City Council meeting.

From there, Gomez said she would have to take a resolution to the City Council at its Oct. 3 meeting to have the council call for a recall election and request Kings County provide services for the election.

Gomez said that if the required signatures are submitted, the council is legally required to schedule a recall election anywhere from 88 to 125 days after the date that the council acts.

This means the election would possibly have to take place sometime between the first week of January and the first half of February; less than a year before Ramirez’s term as a councilman expires.

The day after the council sets a recall date, if that were the case, any resident of District D could file nomination papers to begin campaigning for the council seat against Ramirez.

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 the County Elections Office informed her the election is estimated to cost the city between $25,000 and $30,000.

Despite the outcome of the recall effort, Ramirez said he would continue to move Hanford forward in the right direction.

“It’s time the corruption stops in our community,” Ramirez said.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

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