It was a full house at Hanford’s City Council meeting on September 1. The crowd was a mix of angry residents over the actions of their mayor and the council considering selling part of Hidden Valley Park.
The meeting started with Mayor Russ Curry apologizing to the council and community for reading four letters into the record at the August 18 meeting. The letters accused Councilmember Francisco Ramirez of lying about his background during the 2014 campaign and of using campaign contributions for his personal use, among other things.
“It was inappropriate reading the letters regarding Councilmember Ramirez,” Curry said, “I was wrong.”
Curry was found to be out of order because the letters were not relevant to city business. As a result, Councilmember Justin Mendes asked for the council to reorganize its September 1 meeting. Councilmembers Gary Pannett and Ramirez also voted in support.
The Hanford Sentinel received copies of the letters and determined that none of their authors were registered voters in Hanford, and might not even exist. Curry called each councilmember and apologized for his behavior. Because of his sincere apology, Mendes took the reorganization item off of the September 1 agenda.
After further analysis by the Hanford Sentinel, the letters appeared to be written by the same person. Residents in attendance questioned whether anyone actually told Curry to read the letters aloud for the record.
Though Curry’s apology was accepted by all the council members, it didn’t stop them, or the residents, from voicing their opinion. Ramirez said that it weighed heavily on his heart how Curry came into possession of the letters. Curry said that the letters were delivered together at his doorstep.
Councilmember Pannett said he had been getting calls and emails asking about the origin of the conflicts on the council. Because of Curry’s actions, each one of the councilmembers have been under personal attack. Pannett also felt that Curry’s actions were a slap in the face of Hanford residents. He suggested that at the next meeting they discuss a formal censure to show that the council takes Hanford residents seriously.
Dan Leon from Hanford spoke during public comment and said that the Hispanic community thought the way Ramirez was treated was a disgrace to the council. Leon started to recount stories of Curry’s past career as a policeman in Corcoran and how the mayor had a reputation for treating Blacks horribly, but was stopped by Pannett on the grounds it was a personal attack. At the end of the meeting Councilman Ramirez expressed his gratitude for all the support he received during the meeting.
“My main goal, though, is that the city move forward,” he said.