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After another snag, group abandons effort to recall mayor

City clerk says proponents’ publication of notice does not meet guidelines

The voters who have been trying to recall Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez have abandoned the initiative after their attempts to meet legal noticing requirements failed for the fourth time.

Instead, the mayor’s detractors will focus on finding a candidate to run against Velazquez in the next regular election in 2022, according to a statement from Andrew Russo, one of the proponents of the mayoral recall effort.

On July 27, Hollister City Clerk Christine Black sent a letter to Celeste Toledo-Bocanegra, the lead proponent of the effort to recall Velazquez from office, to inform her that her required publication of the notice of intent to circulate a petition was “deficient.”

The notice received and approved by Black’s office earlier this month was four pages long and contained the names, signatures and addresses of 56 registered voters as proponents, Black’s letter explained. The next step was for the proponents to publish the notice in the newspaper, but they only published one page of the approved notice in the Free Lance.

The state elections code requires recall petition circulators to publish their notices of intent before they can begin collecting signatures for an election.

“Therefore, the current recall effort against Mayor Velazquez must be terminated,” Black’s letter states. “Should you wish to begin a new recall attempt, you must begin with a new Notice of Intention and service upon the Mayor.”

Black’s letter notes a number of other “format errors” in the proponents’ petition. It also notes that the proponents’ proof of publication was submitted to the city clerk’s office too early on July 22, as the notice was not published until the Free Lance was printed on July 23.   

Velazquez recall proponents Toledo-Bocanegra, Russo and others submitted their notice of intent to circulate petition twice with incorrect or omitted information that is required under the state elections code. Their third notice was accepted by Black on July 8, but now the process goes back to the drawing board with the publication that failed to meet state elections laws.

In a July 28 statement, Russo blamed Black for their incomplete publication and labeled the city clerk “a dutiful lackey of Mayor Velazquez (who) has thrown up obstacle after obstacle to continue with a process that she…has determined from the outset will not be allowed to advance.”

Russo said the publication of every page of the notice of intent is “not required by law and is totally unheard of.”

The group of residents leading the recall effort has thus abandoned the initiative. “Instead, we will focus on recruiting a winning candidate to take him on in the November 2022 election,” says Russo’s statement.

Black has previously said that as an impartial city official, she cannot advise the proponents on the content of their filings. She can only point out whether their paperwork is in full compliance with state guidelines.

The California Secretary of State’s Recall Procedures guidelines state, “A copy of the notice of intention (including addresses and signatures) must be published at the proponents’ expense at least once in a newspaper of general circulation.”

Furthermore, recall proponents must use a petition format supplied by elections officials when circulating and publishing the document.

The state law also allows Velazquez to submit a response to the recall proponents, which he did shortly after their notice of intent was approved on July 8.

If the July 23 publication had been acceptable under state guidelines, the proponents would have been able to start collecting signatures to place a recall election on an upcoming ballot. They would have needed verified signatures from at least 20 percent of the City of Hollister’s registered voters.