This article has been updated to correct that Dan Chin runs Hanford Now, not Skip Athey. We apologize and regret the error.
Hanford residents living in District D voted 61.6% to recall City Council Member Francisco Ramirez. The recall is effective immediately. Ramirez can attend city council meetings until the results are certified, but he cannot vote.
Business woman Diane Sharp beat out of the four candidates running to replace Ramirez.
Sharp was at the Kings County Registrar of Voters Tuesday night January 23, excitedly watching the final count. Hearing the results she said,
“I am honored to have been elected to the city council and am eager to serve the constituents of District D and Hanford as a whole. I think we have a lot to look forward to- a very bright future indeed.”
Turnout was very low with only 384 people voting out of 3475 registered voters.
234 residents voted in favor of the recall and146 voted against.
Sharp received 137 votes or a commanding 41%. Former Hanford Mayor Lou Martinez received 94 votes, Paula Massey, 50 and Shelly Barker 42.
Depending on when the election results are certified, Sharp will be sworn into office at either the regularly scheduled city council meeting on February 6 or February 20.
Days before the Vote
Ramirez said that by the time the last mailer arrived at District D resident’s doors many of the people who voted early regretted their vote.
342 residents voted early versus 42 on the day of the recall.
Ramirez said the mailer was the final straw revealing the amount of corruption going on in Hanford.
He plans on running for his seat again in November and feels comfortable that he will win now that the people are educated about the corruption.
Ramirez also claimed that “if this were a regular vote, then he would have beaten Sharp by 10 votes.”
Shaka Sudds, a long-time supporter of Ramirez, said on the Eggs, Bacon and Joey Radio Show the morning of January 23 that there was “deeply seated corruption within our voting system in Kings County.”
She said that a group of people who never wanted Ramirez in office, and who didn’t live in the district, were the ones behind the recall.
Sudds said that many of the people who signed the petitions to recall were elderly and didn’t know what they were signing.
“One woman was mentally ill. I believe she had Down Syndrome. She agreed to sign that petition but she didn’t even know what it was about or who it was against. That was a very suspicious thing to me,” said Sudds.
The day before the recall Ramirez obtained the campaign finance forms filed by Hanford Now. Hanford Now is an organization run by Dan Chin who, along with Skip Athey, organized the recall.
Ramirez discovered that the group paid $13,000 to pay people to collect signatures. Ramirez said that when you add how much they paid for mailers, which he alleged was about $12,000, that means recall organizers spent $25,000 to get Ramirez off the city council.
“Ultimately, I do not believe this was the will of the people,” said Ramirez.
But others disagreed.
“They did not pay for voter’s signatures. Just to clarify in case anyone reads your caption. There were many unpaid volunteers that went door to door. This document (campaign finance forms) shows the professional that was hired to continue door to door in order to cover more area. He in turn, hired people under him. This is no surprise, its common procedure and these documents are available for the public to view,” one commenter, Angela LiAntonio, countered on Facebook.
“Today, history is going to be made, good or bad. I’m going to be watching the election results with my head up high knowing that I stood up against the corrupted, and that mostly everything I promised the citizens of my great community I fulfilled. Let this be a lesson in your eyes. No matter what the outcome is if you don’t stand up for something, you will fall for anything. …At the end of the day that’s all I really wanted. For the corrupted to be out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Thanks to all the citizens of this wonderful community. I love you all,” Ramirez said on the afternoon of the recall election.
About an hour after the results were released, candidate Shelly Barker posted a seven minute alcohol-fueled video of her, her friends and their children celebrating Ramirez’ recall.
Attendees of the party included, Tommy Barker, Ralph Barker, Tara Barker, Mark Cole, Stephen Cano, Kalish Morrow, Dough Morrow, and Mike Cuinn.
According to Barker, Lou Martinez arrived later in the evening..
In the video former city council candidate Mark Cole can be heard saying “bye bitch” two or three times.
Also in the video Barker, a former supporter of the ousted council member, accuses Ramirez of being an idiot, corrupt, plagiarizing and a liar.
She said that “charges are being pressed now. The paperwork has already been started so get used to silver bracelets.”
Barker is a former member of the Kings County Grand Jury.
Ramirez’ reaction to Barker’s video was disbelief that the Kings County Assessor, Kristi Lee, “liked” the video post on Facebook.
“It’s so unethical for the assessor to “like” that I am out of office. She is an elected official. She should not take sides in any discussion especially the same night that you are counting the votes,” said Ramirez.
Ramirez pointed out during his radio interview the next morning on Eggs, Bacon and Joey Radio Show the extremely low voter turnout. The city spent around $20,000 to run the recall and Hanford Now spent about $25,000 to collect signatures and mailers against Ramirez, for an election where only 384 people voted.
Concerning the total amount of money spent Ramirez said, “There is something more than meets the eye of why you want me out of office,” he said.
That, in combination with the assessor liking Barker’s video, gave Ramirez concern.
“I believe this was rigged,” he said.
As for the future, Ramirez plans on taking the next month off and then gear up in June to start campaigning for the city council race. “I have a lot of supporters out there and I really think I am going to win.
Ramirez was noncommittal regarding attending the next Hanford City Council, simply stating “maybe, maybe not.”
He is considering going so he can thank the city staff for all their hard work and to ask the other city council members not to fire city manager Darrel Pyle.
“I feel in my heart that Darrel’s job is on the line now.”
Ramirez claims the fact that he refused to fire Pyle when elected sparked former Hanford Mayor Dan Chin to get him off the council.
As a result of Ramirez’ refusing to fire Pyle, Chin “said that he was going to make my life a living hell–and trust me, he kept his word,” Ramirez claims.
As far as his chances of beating Sharp when she runs to defend her seat?
“No doubt, I will be back in November.”