Hanford City Councilman Francisco Ramirez to Face Recall

Francisco Ramirez and a supporter. Courtesy/Francisco Ramirez

The recall election date for Hanford City Council member Francisco Ramirez has been set for January 23, 2018.

Ramirez was elected in District D in November, 2014.

Hanford City Clerk Jennifer Gomez received the recall petition on August 21 with 1,062 signatures. The recall group needed 853. After verifying 864 signatures she presented the petition to the Hanford City Council on September 19.

The council had between 88 and 125 days to set the election date and opted to wait longer rather than earlier. The council wanted to give potential replacement candidates time to campaign in the event Ramirez was recalled, and they were concerned about holding an election during the holiday season.

Gomez informed the council that there will be at least one precinct polling station in District D and absentee ballot voting for those who are registered to vote by mail.

Hanford resident Skip Athey served Ramirez the recall papers at the May 16 city council meeting. His reasons were the following:

“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.”

Athey said that Ramirez “knowingly and willfully violated the Campaign Finance requirements by failing to open and maintain a campaign checking account.”

He added that the Kings County Grand Jury found the campaign finance accusations to be true in addition to Ramirez misleading “voters by stating he graduated in 1999 with both a Bachelors and Masters degree.”

Ramirez is steadfast in the defense of his job as council member, “You’d be surprised how many people come up to me at the Hanford Market to give me their support, at least 40 every week.”

What Happens if Ramirez is Recalled?

Voters will face two questions at the ballot box. The first question will be whether or not they want to recall Ramirez. The second question will be with whom the voter wants to replace Ramirez if he were to be recalled.

If the first question passes with 50 percent plus one, the replacement candidate with the highest number of votes will win the election. The new council member would be sworn at the next council meeting after the results are certified.

Any resident in District D wishing to run can file nomination papers from October 4 through November 9.

It is rumored that former city council member Lou Martinez will be pulling papers to run for Ramirez seat. Martinez filed the recall papers with the city clerk and has been active at the city council meeting for the last several months.

Ramirez beat incumbent Martinez in 2014.

Cost of a Special Election

Hanford Issues, a Facebook page administered by Skip Athey, has complained about the price of the recall. City Clerk Jennifer Gomez has predicted it will cost the city around $25,000 – $30,000.

Athey has encouraged Ramirez to voluntarily step down from his council seat to save the city money.

Recall proponents, on the other hand, could have chosen to field a candidate in the November 2018 election when Ramirez is up for re-election.

If the recall effort is successful, Hanford tax payers will have paid approximately $30,000 to unseat Ramirez nine months early.

Gang of Five

The efforts to oust Ramirez started in the summer of 2015.

During the August 4, 2015 city council meeting, Ramirez was one of three council members who voted to allow movie theaters to operate outside of the downtown area. The vote allowed theaters to open their doors in the commercial zones near 12th Avenue and Lacey Boulevard.

Previous to the vote, theaters could only locate in downtown with the exception of a movie theater in the Hanford Mall.

Retribution for Ramirez’ vote came swiftly.

During the next council meeting, August 18, Mayor Russ Curry asked to read into the record several letters he had received from “constituents.” The letters claimed that Ramirez failed to report campaign contributions during his 2014 run for office, as well as questions about Ramirez’s educational background.

The letters were later proven to be fictitious.

The incident led to Curry narrowly avoiding having to step down as mayor after profusely apologizing to the other city council members and Hanford’s residents.

Pannett was outraged by Curry’s character assassination of Ramirez and offered to speak to the Kings County Grand Jury, the District Attorney’s Office or local law enforcement to “tell what I know.”

“What I am seeing now is more vicious attacks,” Pannett told the Sentinel. “If you don’t vote one way, you’re going to get wiped out the next day,”

“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,” Ramirez said, responding to the letters.

According to Ramirez there are five individuals that are the backbone of the recall. Those individuals, he claims, are Lou Martinez, Skip Athey, Dan Escobar, Bob Ramos and Dan Chin. All have been involved in filing complaints, writing letters and speaking against Ramirez at the city council meetings.

Ironically, four of these people helped get Ramirez elected.

Immediately after the movie theater vote, Escobar filed a Fair Political Practices Committee (FPPC) complaint against Ramirez. Simultaneously, an allegedly different member of the group of five filed a complaint with the Kings County Grand Jury.

Among many other accusations in his FPPC complaint, Escobar accused Ramirez of raising $3000 for his city council campaign without reporting it. All candidates are required to open a campaign bank account and create a campaign committee if they raise more than $1000.

On August 15, 2015 the Fair Political Practices Commission sent Ramirez a letter saying, “The enforcement division of the fair Political Commission has initiated an investigation into whether you violated the Political Reform Act’s campaign disclosure provisions in connection with your 2014 Hanford City Council election.”

According to Jay Wierenga, FPPC Communications Director, the investigation is ongoing even after two years. Although most cases are concluded within 180 days, he would not disclose why Ramirez’ investigation was taking so long.

Ramirez says that Dan Chin and Dan Escobar were his campaign managers and set him up.

In a video posted on Facebook and the website hanfordlies.com, Ramirez details his claim that Chin and Escobar filed faulty campaign finance paperwork, stating that Ramirez raised less than $1000. Ramirez alleges that Chin and Escobar apparently raised much more campaign money than they told him.

According to Ramirez, Chin and Escobar prepared the fraudulent paperwork not reporting the $3000 and had Ramirez sign it.

Both Chin and Escobar deny being part of Ramirez’ campaign.

Over the last 18 months, along with the FPPC investigation, a string of letters, an investigation by Griswold-LaSalle, and another grand jury complaint in November 2016 against Ramirez have been filed or submitted to the city council. Most have demanded the censure and/or resignation of Ramirez.

The February 2016 investigation of Council Member Justin Mendes and Ramirez by Griswold-LaSalle and commissioned by Curry found no misconduct by either member.

That investigation costs the city $11,000.

Ramirez Campaign Has Started

Ramirez posted a video on his Facebook after the recall was certified countering the allegations against him and has vowed to fight “tooth and nail” to keep his seat.

Former city council member Gary Pannett has joined the fight as Ramirez’ campaign manager.

“I have seen the corruption first hand and I want to help you take it down,” Pannett told Ramirez.

Ramirez said after being served, “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.”

Besides the anger over Ramirez votes concerning downtown, he also believes there is a racial component. He stated on his Facebook:

“Enough is enough! I have tried not to make this a race issue, a rich or poor issue or a religious issue, but the people that are doing this recall are simply racist! They don’t like my district because they think my district is poor and uneducated. They have called the Caucasians the African Americans and the Hispanics in my district lower class. These individuals have had so much power in Hanford for so long. That’s why there hadn’t been any new development on the south side because ‘they don’t want it.’”

Ramirez says that the fact he fights for development on the poorer south side angers his recall proponents. He said the southside doesn’t get the attention it deserves and he has been trying to change that.

“There has been nearly no development here in the last 25 years.”

Ramirez is also incredulous about how the recall proponents recruited 1062 signatures in District D. In 2014, a total of 1029 people voted in that district, 33 less than who signed the recall petition, 586 of whom cast a ballot for Ramirez.

I have no idea who the 1062 signatories are,” he said.

“Where did they come from?”

6 thoughts on “Hanford City Councilman Francisco Ramirez to Face Recall

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  1. City of Hanford, Tulare has your perfect candidate for your city council. His name is Benny Benzeevie and he can make your city lots of money. He is a money machine.

    • So True! He is the only man I know that in one breath can tell his employees that he is broke and can’t pay them and then in another magically come up with the funds to pay them – all in a days time!!

      And he is a wizard on securing loans if you don’t mind your little city being put up for collateral..

  2. To Whom this may concern,
    I have a notion to make on my behalf, in regards to Francisco Ramirez. My name is Curtis D.E. Hellman. I graduated and wrestled at Hanford High School, West campus class of 2000. Thats how I was first acquainted with Mr.Ramirez. I didn’t get to know him on a personal level until about 2005_ 2006. I had enlisted to the U.S.M.C. and served in Operation Iraqi freedom & Operation Enduring Freedom. Well, I moved back to Hanford, and was actively searching for gainful employment. Well. With that said,u he had mentioned he went to west hills college, and earned a Master’s Degree in Marketing, as we’ll as a bachelor’s degree business. Well, that sounded promising for him, but he had put an offer on the table I couldnt refuse, and mater a fact, the.Hanford Sentinel. Had did an article on him and I, in the bizz week. So he had offered me half owner to a company he wanted to venture in, due to his experience, and my experience, and background the Company name was Open World I.T. I worked on flyers marketing,u emails, cold calls, beating the heat in the street in the summer marketing this business that sounded so promising, I did this for close to 3 months or so. Recieved in full maybe $50.00 bucks.u for half owner to this business, What I am getting at is I was extremely u used and abused mentally, physically, and emotionally, most of all financially, I had moved to oklahoma, because my fathers passing in hanford, nothing seemed promising,u iu was workin for free, with my name all over the place for Francisco Ramirez dream, my dream was gone. I recently came back to Hanford, and saw Mr. Ramirez, & mentioned Open Wo/rld I.T. AND the $. I have been owed for years, and I was shunned away. I HOPE Mr. RAMIREZ reaps what he sews in the life, for him to have no respect or regard for and to a Marine Corps Veteranr, and I thought I was a friend, but very selfish. And no regard s for others. Unless he gains from it. It seems he wants to take every short cut in life, and not ,doing it on his own. With self pride. Thank u for letting me share my story, hope it helps.

  3. Sounds like sower grapes to me. If you were part owner, where was your startup capitol? You must not have listened in your business classes. Nobody owes any of us a living, though our local politicians feel differently.

  4. I have received several calls in regards to this article. I find it to be preposterous if it was not so serious. Let me point out a few errors and make some observations.

    I did not step down as mayor. Each year the council selects a mayor to serve a 1 year term. I completed my one year term as mayor. Refer to your Valley Voice article dated Sept 3 2015.

    “Ramirez says that Dan Chin and Dan Escobar were his campaign managers and set him up. (Blackmail, his own words) Ramirez details his claim that Chin and Escobar filed faulty campaign finance paperwork”. Chin and Escobar are not required to file any paper work with the FPPC. This is the candidates’ responsibility and signed under the penalty of perjury.

    According to Ramirez, Chin and Escobar prepared the fraudulent paperwork not reporting the $3000 and had Ramirez sign it. (This is not what he told the Grand Jury. Ramirez said “after reviewing my paper work that I turned into the FPPC, (Campaign contributions) I found that I made a mistake. I collected just over $1,000 dollars.” Grand Jury Investigation revealed he had collected over $3,000 dollars in reportable contributions). Which statement is true Ramirez? Did Chin and Escobar set you up or did YOU collect just over $1,000? Even in his video, he admits that he had knowledge of the “In Kind Gifts”. If you have knowledge of these gifts/Donations, YOU must report it on your 460 form.

    “According to Ramirez, Chin and Escobar had him sign the fraudulent paperwork.” What is disconcerting about this statement, Ramirez signs a document under the penalty of perjury because someone “TOLD” him to sign it? This leaves me to question in the last 3 years, what other documents or votes he cast because someone “TOLD” him to vote a certain way without reading supporting documents?

    Former city council member Gary Pannett has joined the fight as Ramirez’ campaign manager. “I have seen the corruption first hand and I want to help you take it down,” Pannett told Ramirez.” Didn’t Pannett endorse Councilman Martinez (rumored that he will be pulling papers to run for Ramirez seat) when he was running for reelection against Ramirez? If Martinez does run for Ramirez’s seat, I believe this puts Pannett in a challenging position; he supports (endorses) one candidate and is campaign manager for other candidate. (Just a word of caution for Pannett, be vigilant, Ramirez has a tendency of throwing his “so called campaign managers” under the bus)

    Ramirez is also incredulous about how the recall proponents recruited 1062 signatures in District D. Where did they come from?” Let’s review some of his pass comments: According to Ramirez, “The District does not support this recall and they will not get the signatures.”(Valley Voice May 27 2017). Ramirez has stated from the beginning that he does not believe the group will get the needed 853 signatures. “The only way I think they will get them is if they lie.” (Valley Voice June 26 2017) You are wrong again Ramirez. Let me try to explain it. There are 3,412 register voters in his district. Only 25% of those voters needed to sign the recall petition. Over 25% registered voters signed the petition so it appears his district does support the recall. Who voted in the 2014 election has nothing to do with this recall other than someone who voted for him might have signed the recall petition.

    In my opinion, the reason FPPC investigation is taking so long, they are following the money. Remember, Ramirez has said there are multiple investigations. All one has to do is read your article in Valley Voice Political Fix (18 August, 2016) Want to Make Some Major Bucks without a Real Job? (Valley Voice, it is my understanding you have requested and received the FPPC compliant. Why not print the sworn statements from the citizens that donated monies or in kind gifts to Ramirez’s campaign? (Or print to entire complaint) I believe you’ll find that they all said they gave Ramirez the money (Not Chin or Escobar). Remember, follow the money.) Ramirez has run for an elected office 5 times. It appears there might be violations in each of these elections. Each violation has a maximum fine of $5,000. You can see how the FPPC will take time to complete a very complicated investigation. (FPPC is taking this investigation seriously. They have said several times it is a “top priority” to complete their investigation)

    As Ramirez would say, “do your own research”. Compare his pass statements to what he is saying now.

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