Moreno Valley Mayor and City Council recall, California (2014)
An effort to recall the mayor and city council of Moreno Valley, California was launched in June 2013. The targeted officials include Mayor and council member Tom Owings (District 3), council member Victoria Baca (District 5), council member Jesse L. Molina (District 1) and council member Richard A. Stewart (District 2). Former council member Marcelo Co (District 4) was also subject to the recall attempt until he resigned after being arrested for welfare fraud.
In April 2013, a task force of state and federal investigators raided the homes of the five city council members, along with the home of real estate agent Jerry Stephens and the office of warehouse developer Iddo Benzeevi, in relation to a corruption investigation. The task force had been trying to clean up widespread corruption in the general region since 2010. A group calling itself "Concerned Citizens of Moreno Valley" began the recall effort in response to that investigation.
Path to the ballot
- See also: Laws governing recall in California
On December 3, 2013, recall supporters filed a petition against Mayor Town Owings. On January 16, 2014, county election officials certified the petition, meaning that a recall election will be held for Owings. Shortly thereafter, former parks director George Price announced his intention to run against Owings in the recall election. The recall election is scheduled for June 3, 2014 and will be comprised of two components: a yes or no vote to recall Owings and the names of replacement candidates.
Owings' wife, Susan Kay Gilmore, also filed to appear on the recall ballot. "My city needs me. The supporters of my husband need a good choice, a good option, and I am that," she said.
Councilwoman Victoria Basa was served with a notice of intent to recall on January 7, 2014. On February 10, 2014, the city clerk's office approved the petition against Baca, meaning that organizers may begin collecting signatures. Recall proponents have until June 10 to collect the 2,547 signatures required to trigger a recall election.
Highland Fairview, a development company involved in the 2013 corruption probe, contributed nearly $300,000 to the anti-recall group Moreno Valley Citizens for Social Justice between July 1 and December 31, 2013. Other anti-recall groups spent approximately $52,000 and recall target Owings spent just over $33,000, for a total of more than $383,000 among the anti-recall groups and individuals. Meanwhile, recall group Concerned Citizens for Moreno Valley reported expenditures of over $19,000.
Previous recall efforts directed at the city council in 2013 all stalled. Recall supporters had 120 days to collect signatures from 20 percent of the registered voters in each respective district to trigger a recall election. They needed 3,030 signatures from District 1 by December 19 for the recall effort against Jesse Molina. They needed 3,925 signatures from District 2 by December 19 for the recall effort against Richard Stewart. They needed 3,544 signatures from District 3 by December 5 for the recall effort against Tom Owings. Supporters of this recall turned in more than the required number. They needed 2,878 signatures from District 5 by December 3 for the recall effort against Victoria Baca. No signatures were submitted for this recall effort. Had the recall effort gone forward against Co, approximately 3,244 signatures would have been necessary. The success of an effort against one official is not dependent on the success any others.
The recall effort first targeted Owings, Baca and Stewart. In June 2013, recall supporters submitted initial petitions to the Moreno Valley city clerk's office in order to begin circulating them. However, the City Clerk Jane Halstead invalidated the petition over technical issues regarding incomplete addresses of petition signers. The recall effort was then expanded to cover all five seats of the city council.
By mid-July, recall supporters had served notices of intent to all council members, the City Clerk had validated all recall petitions, and the targeted council members had all submitted their responses. However, the City Clerk later stated that the petitions had errors that needed correcting.
Marcelo Co arrest and resignation
On August 12, 2013, Marcelo Co was arrested on eight felony counts, including grand theft, fraud and making a false claim in relationship to welfare funds he was receiving for taking care of his elderly mother. Those charges were stated to have been completely separate from the corruption investigation that led to the recall effort. His recall petition was approved for circulation the same day as his arrest.
- The Press-Enterprise, "MORENO VALLEY: Recall notices valid against four council members," July 2, 2013
- Los Angeles Times, "Moreno Valley Councilman Marcelo Co resigns after arrest," August 13, 2013
- The Press-Enterprise, "MORENO VALLEY: Signature gathering underway to recall City Council," September 4, 2013
- The Press-Enterprise, "MORENO VALLEY: City council members respond to recall," July 12, 2013
- The Los Angeles Times, "Moreno Valley mayor's home, developer searched in corruption probe," April 30, 2013
- The Press-Enterprise "Moreno Valley: Owings now main target of recall efforts," December 27, 2013
- Inland News Today "Recall petitions against MoVal mayor qualify," January 18, 2014
- The Press-Enterprise "MORENO VALLEY: Former city official to run in recall election," January 28, 2014
- The Press-Enterprise "MORENO VALLEY: Baca, Owings recalls progress," February 11, 2014
- The Press-Enterprise "MORENO VALLEY: Mayor Owings' wife to run in recall," March 5, 2014
- The Press-Enterprise "MORENO VALLEY: Anti-recall groups spend almost $400,000," February 5, 2014
- The Press-Enterprise, "MORENO VALLEY: Voters turn in petitions for mayor’s recall (UPDATE)," December 5, 2013
- The Press-Enterprise, "MORENO VALLEY: Baca recall organizers say effort was sabotaged," December 17,2013
- The Press-Enterprise, "MORENO VALLEY: Organizers redouble recall efforts," June 19, 2013
- The Press-Enterprise, "MORENO VALLEY: All but one council member notified of recall action," June 25, 2013
- The Press-Enterprise, "MORENO VALLEY: Mayor’s recall petition rejected again," August 2, 2013
- The Press-Enterprise, "MORENO VALLEY: Recall effort proceeds against Baca," August 5, 2013
- The Press-Enterprise, "MORENO VALLEY: Signature gathering can begin to oust Co," August 12, 2013