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Hughson council seat to remain open until after recall election
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One week after not making quorum - and nine days before the recall election - the Hughson City Council held a special meeting with just three members. Ben Manley resigned from the City Council on Aug. 2 leaving a vacant seat, and Thom Crowder was absent from the meeting. Both Manley and Crowder, along with Doug Humphreys, were facing recall in yesterday's special election in Hughson.

The results of the recall were not available when the Courier went to press but will be posted online at

The council did not make quorum for its regularly scheduled Aug. 9 meeting, and the meeting was canceled. All but two issues from that day's agenda were discussed at the meeting on Monday, Aug. 16. Agenda items 6 "disclosure of the closed session mentioned in the grand jury report" and 7 "disclosure of the closed session of the night that Jerry Lederman resigned" were removed from the agenda. The items were not discussed at the meeting, and Michele Winterbottom, interim Hughson city clerk, said that they have not been included in any future agendas.

City Attorney Dan Schroeder announced that Manley's vacant seat must legally be filled with a temporary successor, according to the Election Code. Schroeder described dealing with the vacancy as "an interesting set of mental gymnastics." Manley's resignation came only 22 days before the recall election, creating a set of circumstances that makes it impossible for the council to fill the seat temporarily until the recall election.

"We fill the vacancy by doing nothing," Schroeder concluded.

The winner of the recall election will be Manley's permanent successor, and will serve for the remainder of his term.

Mayor Ramon Bawanan announced that council has narrowed down the search for a new Hughson City Manager to two candidates. Final interviews of the candidates will take place in a few weeks in front of the full council. Because of scheduling, the interviews will take place after the recall election.

Council voted to approve an agreement between the cities of Hughson and Modesto to share planning services. Tom Clark said that the agreement was beneficial to both cities because Modesto is looking to lay off planning staff. The planner would work in Hughson for 16 hours a week, and would cost less than half of what Hughson is currently paying a planning firm.

"For small cities like Hughson this is probably going to be the wave of the future," said Humphreys.

Graffiti costs city

The council learned that Rolland Starn Park was hit with graffiti over the weekend of Aug. 14-15. Public Works Superintendent Sam Rush said that it was the worst he had seen in five years.

It took two city employees all day on Monday to remove the spray paint from a brick wall in the park. Even with aerosol paint remover and a power washer, the paint did not come all the way off.

"They still aren't done. That porous brick is hard to get all the way clean," said Rush at the council meeting.

As of Aug. 16, the city of Hughson paid more than 12 hours of labor and purchased 12 cans of spray paint remover. Rush said that the remover costs around $25 per can.

"It's much more expensive than the paint those little snots use," commented Rush.

Hughson has a policy that all graffiti is removed from public property within 24 hours of when it is reported. Rush said that threatening or vulgar graffiti can be removed from private property too, without the owner's permission. In this case, the graffiti was not considered vulgar or threatening, but was likely gang related.

"We've done it so long we know what they're saying. I couldn't make any sense of this stuff though," Rush said.

The graffiti was mostly removed from the wall of Starn Park by press time, but it was still slightly visible. There was also still some tagging on the inside of the nearby dugouts at Gene Adams Field.

Flying the flag

The Hughson City Council designated Hughson Avenue as the street to fly the American flag, and directed staff to work with the Fly the Flag Committee to coordinate the placements of flags along the street. Hughson Public works already places flags along Hughson Avenue on the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Veterans' Day and Flag Day.

In a letter to the council, Donnell Bak, organizer of the Fly the Flag Committee, requested the city allow his organization to take over flag flying services. They will place flags free of cost along Hughson Avenue on major state and federal holidays.