Monday, May 29, 2017
[Kings County] Hanford City Council Member Francisco Ramirez Faces Recall
Blog note: this article references a 2016 grand jury report.
A group of Hanford residents has filed recall papers against Hanford City Council Member Francisco Ramirez. The group has 90 days from May 19 to collect 800 signatures in district D. Ramirez was elected in November of 2014.
Hanford resident Skip Athey served Ramirez recall papers before the city council meeting started on May 16. Bob Ramos then spoke during public comment to announce that Ramirez had been served with papers. Councilmember Justin Mendez tried to stop Ramos from speaking, saying, “Mr. Ramos is clearly out of order.”
Skip Athey stated in an email to the Valley Voice that night, “Hanford City Councilman Francisco Ramirez has been served Recall papers. He broke the law prior to being elected, the Grand Jury investigated and determined in fact he did, so they reported it to the Kings County District Attorney but he has been too weak to prosecute and instead made it political…”
The recall papers were filed with the City of Hanford on May 19 and needed a minimum of 20 signatures. The recall states,
“Hanford Councilman Francisco Ramirez has a long history of supporting his interest over the interests of the community. His corruption and disregard for the law has helped create a culture of mistrust within the community of Hanford culminating in numerous investigations.
Mr. Ramirez knowingly and willful misuse of public resources has violated the people’s trust. His continued failure to file the proper disclosure forms required by the Fair Political Practices Commission has resulted in an ongoing investigation.
The Kings County Grand Jury in their findings state Mr. Ramirez knowingly and willfully violated the Campaign Finance Requirements by failing to open and maintain a campaign checking account knowingly and willfully failed to accurately account for all campaign contributions received. They further state Ramirez knowingly and willfully mislead voters by stating he graduated in 1999 with both a Bachelors and Masters degree and strongly recommended Ramirez no longer state he has college degrees.”
A former public official familiar with recalls stated that recalls are very difficult to do. He said that “without any hiccups it will be an eight-month process so we are talking about February of 2018 if it is done right.”
Ramirez’ term is up in November of 2018.
The current recall effort is one of several attempts to oust Ramirez from his city council seat. Different groups of Hanford residents have filed complaints with the Hanford City Council, Kings County Grand Jury and the Fair Political Practices Committee (FPPC).
The Kings County Grand Jury responded to one group’s complaints and all issues were resolved in the summer of 2016. The FPPC investigation has been ongoing.
In August of 2015 Skip Athey, Glenda Dwyer, Bob Ramos and former Hanford Mayor Dan Chin filed a complaint with the FPPC claiming that Ramirez did not file the appropriate campaign finance forms for his 2014 city council election. It is alleged that their complaint was motivated by Ramirez’ vote to allow a movie theater to locate outside the downtown region.
In December 2015 former Hanford Planning Commissioner, Danny Escobar, filed an FPPC complaint with the support of Athey, Chin, and Ramos. The group’s many accusations include Ramirez’ misrepresenting his accomplishments while serving on the Armona School Board and Lanare Water Board, his claim on campaign materials that he received a BA and Master’s degrees in business administration, and for failing to open a bank account for campaign contributions received.
Ironically, it was these same Hanford residents who supported Ramirez, some financially, during his victorious 2014 campaign against incumbent city council member Lou Martinez. The relationship allegedly soured when Ramirez continually did not cast votes the way the group expected.
In a quote from a 2015 Hanford Sentinel article Ramirez said, “There are certain individuals that are throwing these allegations at me just because I’m not allowing them to pull my strings and be their puppet.”
Both Dan Chin and Danny Escobar have had their own problems concerning public office. Both have received FPPC warning letters for campaign violations. In addition, Escobar resigned from the Hanford Planning Commission days before the city council was going to discuss his removal under a cloud of suspicion. Chin faced his own recall late in 2011 and ended up stepping down as mayor but retaining his city council seat. The recall effort failed.
When Jay Wierenga, Communications Director at the FPPC, was asked why Ramirez’ case had not been concluded he said, “Investigations take the time they take… lots of factors in each and every case. I can tell you that two-thirds of our cases are resolved in 180 days or less, and almost 90% are completed within a year. But, like a lot of things in life, it depends….”
The recall effort might put an end to the debate on whether this is a case of bullying or whether the continuing complaints against Ramirez are legitimate. Ramirez has a reliable pro-business voting record, often advocating for less government regulations to encourage businesses investment in Hanford. He also voted in favor of Hanford’s new general plan that rezoned 18 undeveloped acres of Hidden Valley Park as low-density residential.
According to Ramirez, “The District does not support this recall and they will not get the signatures.”
In Ramirez’ official response to the recall filed with the city on May 24 he states, “Thank you to all the citizens who support me. If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t keep doing what I do. There are some individuals that don’t even live in our district that want me out of office because I’m not a part of the good old boys club. When you elected me I promised to change things and not be part of the status quo.”
He added, “I will keep on fighting for the citizens of our great community!”
May 27, 2017
By Catherine Doe