All three recall targets have been kicked off the city council with a resounding 66% of votes each.
After an 11-month saga spurred by the beating death of Kelly Thomas by Fullerton Police, Fullertonians overwhelmingly supported the recall of Mayor Pro Tem Don Bankhead and Councilmen F. Richard Jones and Pat McKinley Tuesday.
With all 87 precincts reporting, voters decided two-to-one on each target that they wanted a change in the City Council, with Tony Bushala-backed candidates Travis Kiger and Greg Sebourn winning seats and with perennial candidate Doug Chaffee finally getting a win. The three are expected to take their seats in mid-July.
Bankhead has the dubious distinction of being the only city councilman to be recalled twice. He was recalled in 1994, only to be re-elected again in the same year. He has been on the council since then.
On hearing the preliminary results, Jones and McKinley walked out of the city council meeting during the public session.
Kiger, one of the three victorious candidates, said that the strong results for the recalls has reinforced what they’ve been pushing all along.
“[Bankhead, Jones and McKinley] are failures who have messed things up in Fullerton,” said Kiger, who is a contributor to Bushala’s blog, Friends For Fullerton’s Future. “The voters wanted a turnaround in city government, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Speaking to Kelly Thomas’s father Ron, Fullerton School Board member Chris Thompson, the head of the Fullerton Recall, thanked him for opening Fullerton’s eyes to a corrupt government.
“Thank you for how you allowed us to bring some benefit to the community from your murdered son," he told a crowd as the recall celebration at The Pint House in Downtown Fullerton was winding down.
Ron has stated that he would like to enter politics to change Fullerton from a general law city to a charter city in order to strengthen the powers of the mayor to hire and fire the police chief, among other officials. He even suggested that he would run for mayor once Fullerton becomes a charter city.
A few doors down on the same street, candidate Matt Rowe said that his campaign has made an impression on Fullerton politics despite having lost to Chaffee. He has stated he will run again in the November general election.
Efforts to recall the three councilmen began last August when citizens protested the beating death of Kelly Thomas at the hands of Fullerton Police on July 5. Officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, who were caught on tape confronting Thomas and beating him with four other officers present, will face trial.
At the height of major protests, local businessman Tony Bushala threatened the three councilmen with recall during the August 2, 2011 city council meeting.
Bushala, who bankrolled $235,000 of the campaign, accused all three councilmen of a lack of leadership in the wake of Thomas’s beating death and mismanagement of city government in accordance with pensions and the water franchise fee. The three councilmen have largely been silent on the Thomas case, though McKinley, the former police chief, has gone on the record in August, 2011, defending the officers during a CNN interview and saying that the injuries inflicted on Thomas were “not life-threatening.”
The anti-recall campaign, led by planning commissioner Larry Bennett, accused Bushala of using his money to put his own candidates on the council and using the death of Kelly Thomas to force change.
As for giving the three recalled councilmen a proper farewell, Christine Walker, an outspoken member of Kelly’s Army, had just the right words:
“Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you!”