Politics

Fullerton council members face possible recall in June vote

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A campaign to recall three Fullerton city council members stems from the Kelly Thomas beating death.

Anger and frustration have been bubbling over since the death of Kelly Thomas in July 2011 after the schizophrenic homeless man had a confrontation with Fullerton police officers.

Now three Fullerton City Council members, Pat McKinley, Dick Jones and Don Bankhead are facing a recall in June, accused of lacking leadership.

"If they were real leaders they would have stepped up to the plate, they would have asked the questions, they would have went to the city manager and said 'We want to see the videotape,'" said Tony Bushala, who supports the Fullerton recall.

The videotaped beating of Thomas, 37, was eventually shown in court during the preliminary hearing of the two officers charged in Thomas's death.

Bankhead insists he remained silent right after Thomas's death to protect the investigation.

"The leadership that we've shown was to make certain that any evidence that was obtained would be admissible in court," said Bankhead.

Those supporting the recall accuse the three council members of protecting officers. McKinley is a former Fullerton police chief. Bankhead is a retired police captain. The Fullerton Police Officers' Association donated $19,000 to fight the recall.

"They were elected to represent the citizens, and not the unions," said Bushala.

But those fighting the recall say it's about one guy: Tony Bushala, a Fullerton property owner. He's backing the recall with more than $200,000.

"I'm actually very fortunate to have the resources to finance most of the recall," said Bushala.

According to documents the committee for the recall paid more than 40 people to collect signatures. The total amount paid was well over $100,000.

His critics accuse Bushala of using the recall to get friends elected to city council, hoping to win sweetheart development deals.

"I believe that by essentially giving them the dollars that they need, he will have his political people on the council I believe he feels he can manipulate them to do what he would like them to do," said Larry Bennett, who opposes the recall.

"They've provided zero evidence as to how he has or would intend to do that," said recall organizer Chris Thompson.

"I've never taken a penny from the taxpayers from Fullerton," said Bushala.

Both sides hope residents look hard at how the city is being run and vote June 5.

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