HANFORD — A recall election for Hanford City Councilman Francisco Ramirez should take place early next year after a recall petition garnered just enough signatures to warrant a recall.

A message on Ramirez’s Facebook reads: "I'm sad to announce the recall petition has passed by 11 votes. But like I told everyone in my community, I would fight the corruption until the very end. So I will not be resigning, It's time to fight the official recall head on!"

City Clerk Jennifer Gomez verified Thursday morning that the recall petition did get enough signatures to hold a recall election.

The group of Hanford residents petitioning for the recall collected 1,062 signatures and 864 of those signatures were verified by Gomez to be registered voters in Ramirez’s City Council District D; only 853 were needed to hold a recall election.

Gomez approved a petition in June that recall proponents could circulate in Ramirez's council district, and by Aug. 21, the recall group handed in a stack of papers to the city with the signatures.

The recall effort is taking place because the group believes Ramirez has been deceitful and caused mistrust with his constituents, and accused Ramirez of "corruption and disregard for the law" as well as "malfeasance."

Specifically, they 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 cited 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 he can’t comment on the investigation because it is still open and ongoing.

Ramirez said the recall group is mostly comprised of people who don’t live in his district and used “lies” to get people to sign the petition. He encourages anyone to visit his Facebook page and watch a video he said contains evidence that proves the recall group’s “corruption.”

He said although he can’t fight with money, he will “fight with the truth.”

Ramirez said he’s going to fight “tooth and nail” to keep the City Council seat he’s held since 2014, and will start a grassroots effort to reach out to his constituents as soon as possible.

This effort will include going door to door, making phone calls, and hopefully raising enough money to send out mailers to residents in his district, Ramirez said.

“I may be down a little, but I’m not out,” Ramirez said.

Gomez said she will be taking the certified results to the Hanford City Council at the Sept. 19 regular meeting, where members will most likely accept the results.

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

The council is legally required to schedule a recall election anywhere from 88 to 125 days after the date that council acts, meaning the election would most likely take place sometime in January — less than a year before Ramirez’s term as a councilman expires.

The day after council sets the recall date, most likely Oct. 4, any resident of District D could file their nomination papers to begin campaigning for the council seat against Ramirez, Gomez said.

She 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 who they would want to replace Ramirez if he were to be recalled.

If the first question passes with 50 percent plus one, then the replacement candidate with the highest number of votes would win the council seat and be sworn at the next council meeting after the results are certified, Gomez said.

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

No matter what outcome the recall election brings, even if that means a loss, Ramirez said he would continue to “move Hanford forward and fight the corruption.”

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

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