Recall of Mayor Ed Murray and the Lindsay City Council, Lindsay, California (2012)
A simultaneous effort to recall the other four members of the Lindsay City Council was also launched and abandoned. The names of the other four members of the Lindsay City Council are Esteban Velasquez, Pamela Kimball, Danny Salinas and Ramona Villarreal-Padilla.
Supporters of the recall said that a recent audit of city finances showed that there are longstanding issues with how the city council carried out its responsibility for sound fiscal management of the city.
Specific problems mentioned by recall supporters include that the city council "has lacked transparency, paid excessive salaries to city staffers, treated community members unfairly in regard to programs and services provided by the city, and 'exposed [the city] to financial ruin.'"
Yolanda Flores was a supporter of the recall. She said, "We believe all of them are responsible for everything that's happened in the last ten years and they should be accountable for their actions or inactions."
Timothy Daubert also supported the recall. He said, "The city mismanaged the funds and it's been proven they mismanaged the funds."
Audit of city finances
An audit of city finances was conducted by Brown Armstrong Accountancy Corporation of Bakersfield, California, and released to the community in early September 2011. It raises these issues:
- Former city manager Scot Townsend and former finance director Kenny Walker used taxpayer money to pay for two rooms at a $730/night Avila Beach hotel.
- While working for the City of Lindsay, Townsend and Walker used city resources to conduct three for-profit consulting businesses they owned.
- In 2010, water and sewer bills were raised. The additional money was supposed to go to salaries of city employees in the water and sewer department. However, the additional money was used to pay for salary increases for city employees who have nothing to do with the water and sewer department.
- The Tulare County Association of Governments has filed a lawsuit against Lindsay because it failed to require adequate documentation for n$4 million in downtown revitalization projects.
- Townsend and Walker had the authorization to approve [first-time homebuyer] loans without Board approval, and many such loans were given to city employees and/or their families and to individuals who did not qualify for the loans.
The draft audit was discussed at a city council meeting on September 13. At that meeting, resident Rosaena Arevalo referred to an article in the Los Angeles Times of February 21 that quoted mayor Ed Murray saying, "We are not Bell. ...Nothing illegal has been done here in Lindsay." In the September 13 city council meeting, Arevalo looked at Murray and said, "You’re right, mayor Murray. This isn’t Bell. This is worse."
Recall target Pamela Kimball said when the draft audit was released that the city council had been "misled" and "kept in the dark" by the previous administration: "Decisions were made outside the knowledge of the City Council, which have proven to be most unwise, and in some cases, unethical. Those decisions now require our best efforts, and some sacrifice, to make it right."
Kimball says, “Things are being resolved and dealt with by people who are in the best positions to do so. I’m optimistic that we’re going to get through this, put it behind us and move forward. We’re implementing correct procedures and policies to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.” Regarding the recall effort, Kimball says she “would hope that the community would show patience and understanding as we deal with this process."
Travis Murray on Facebook
Travis Murray, the 30-year-old son of Mayor Ed Murray, posted comments about the recall on his Facebook page that included "...to all you pieces of [expletive] out there who are trying to recall my dad...[expletive]" and "... all I need is access to a deer rifle and a scope … lol." This was reported to the Lindsay Police Department. Chief of Police/City Manager Rich Wilkinson referred the case to the Porterville Police Department to increase the odds of it being an independent investigation. Travis Murray has an arrest record but not for any violent offenses.
Path to the ballot
Recall proponent Yolanda Flores originally mailed a Notice of Intention to circulate a recall petition on August 23 to each council member’s home and delivered a copy of the notice to City Clerk Carmen Wilson at City Hall. After some of the original signatures were declared invalid by the Tulare County Elections Office, Flores submitted new signatures on October 7th.
On October 25th, City Clerk Carmela Wilson mailed a Notice of Insufficiency to Flores. Wilson said recall proponents failed to publish their Notice of Intention to circulate a recall petition in the time they were allotted. Following Wilson's receipt of the council members' responses to the Notice of Intention, recall proponents had 10 days to publish the notice in a local newspaper. Wilson received all of the council members' responses by October 14th, meaning recall organizers had a deadline of October 24th to publish their notice in a newspaper. They had the material published on October 26th. Because recall organizers missed the deadline, Wilson said the Notice of Intent to Recall the council members was rendered invalid as of October 24th.
Flores said recall organizers would begin the process again, marking the third time the process has started from scratch.
On November 10, Flores delivered new petitions to City Clerk Carmela Wilson. On November 14th, Wilson said that the recall proponents had completed all of the necessary steps to be able to craft five recall petitions. Wilson had 10 days to review and approve the proposed petitions. The petitions were originally rejected, but in accordance with laws governing the recall process, recall organizers were given a 10-day correction notification period and 10-day filing period for corrected petitions.
On December 8th, Lindsay City Clerk Carmen Wilson told recall organizers that their petitions met state requirements and that they could begin collecting signatures for the recall effort.
Recall organizers then had 60 days to collect 549 signatures of registered voters for each recall target. If enough valid signatures had been submitted by February 6th, 2012, a recall election would have been scheduled.
Since the last time the Elections Department reported voter statistics to the California Secretary of State was in February 2011, when Lindsay had 2,068 registered voters, it turns out recall organizers only need to submit 517 signatures to meet the 20% minimum.
Recall organizers did not submit signatures by the February 6th deadline. Although Yolanda Flores said recall supporters had gathered over 500 signatures for each recall target, the signatures were not submitted due to privacy concerns. Said Flores, “We had to preserve [the confidentiality that] we promised the petitioners.These people could lose their jobs. They could lose their businesses. They were very sure that they were going to be retaliated against if their names were not kept confidential. We needed to make sure that they were protected.”
- Recorder Online, "Lindsay recall effort to start over", September 14, 2011
- The Porterville Recorder, "Lindsay recall effort hits snag...again," October 28, 2011
- ABC Local, "Lindsay accused of misusing taxpayer money again", September 12, 2011
- Recorder Online, "Lindsay recall takes ugly turn", August 27, 2011
- Recorder Online, "Citizens criticize, commend Lindsay council", September 14, 2011
- The Porterville Recorder, "Lindsay councilwoman ‘optimistic' about city's future," September 24, 2011
- The Sun Gazette, "Recall reaction riles up Lindsay", August 31, 2011
- Porterville Recorder, "Effort to recall Lindsay council under way again," October 13, 2011
- The Porterville Recorder, "No interruptions so far in 3rd recall attempt," November 15, 2011
- Foothills Sun-Gazette, "Lindsay recall rousing in wake of recent reports," December 14, 2011
- Porterville Recorder, "Recall petitions declared valid," December 15, 2011
- Porterville Recorder, "Deadline for Lindsay recall signatures approaching," January 31, 2012
- Porterville Recorder, "Effort to recall Lindsay council members is over," February 8, 2012