By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Civil Grand Jury clears Hughson mayor, worker
Placeholder Image
Hughson Mayor Ramon Bawanan and Hughson Management Analyst Dominque Spinale did nothing illegal nor acted improperly relative to their respective roles at City Hall, the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury found last week.

The report was welcome relief to a community tired of the small-town political drama that unfolded last year. Since last year talk of the community has been surrounded by political agendas of three council members, a civil grand jury case, the arrest of Hughson director of public works, sexual harassment accusations and now a second civil grand jury report.

The grand jury looked into a grievance filed by the Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3 in Hughson. Union Representative Doug Gorman filed a seven-charge grievance on Nov. 10 against Bawanan and Spinale for "serious wrongdoings" and actions that were "criminal in nature." On Nov. 23 Bawanan turned over the grievance to the Civil Grand Jury for an investigation. Then at the Feb. 23 City Counci meeting Bawanan defended his actions, saying, "If I am guilty of anything, I am guilty of not having a hidden agenda. I am guilty of playing by the rules."

The union accused Bawanan and Spinale of falsely filing a crime report, and overstepping their boundaries with changing city building locks. Another charge focused on the City of Hughson refusing to provide the union with requested information, which is in violation of the Unfair Labor Practice.

The incident in question took place Oct. 23, 2009 after 5 p.m. One of the computer consultants informed Spinale that the hard drive of one of the city computers was missing. Spinale contacted the Hughson City Manager Joe Donabed, who could not help her because he was on administrative leave. Spinale then tried to contact Thom Clark who was the acting city manager, but out of telephone range. Spinale contacted Bawanan who "advised that she should do what was necessary to protect the interests of the city." Spinale contacted the police chief to get the hard drive returned to the city and contacted the Public Works supervisor to have the locks changed on two city buildings.

"The Civil Grand Jury finds that the Mayor acted properly in this matter," wrote the Civil Grand Jury in its report.

Last year the Civil Grand Jury took on City Councilmen Thom Crowder, Doug Humphreys and Ben Manley, saying they each violated the Brown Open Meeting Act, the Hughson Municipal Code and the state Fair Political Practices Commission, and should resign. None of the three resigned.

Crowder believes the Civil Grand Jury, is part of a conspiracy.

"There is a conspiracy and it's not with Humphreys, Manley or myself," Crowder said. "I'm here to protect the community."

Crowder said he wasn't surprised with the results of the second Civil Grand Jury findings. He said the panel found no fault with Bawanan because he is employed with the District Attorney's office.

"The grand jury is unconstitutional," Crowder said. "They have little credibility and they did a bad job of investigating."

Crowder provided the Civil Grand Jury with documents supporting sexual harassment claims allegedly committed by Donabed, violations by Hughson Public Works Director David Chase, documents of the incident in question and John Doe checks addressed to the city, he said.

"There is nothing fishy going on in the city," Crowder said. "It is factual. It is all backed up with documentation."