- Three councilmen are each ousted by a 66% vote
- They were viewed as part of the old guard in a public uproar over alleged police brutality
- Last year, police allegedly beat to death a homeless man with schizophrenia
Three members of the Fullerton City Council were ousted from office in a recall election generated by public outrage over the death of a homeless man allegedly beaten last year by city police officers, election officials said Wednesday.
Residents who were outraged by the incident viewed the three ousted council members as part of the city's old guard. The city's other two council members are not facing a recall.
Removed from office in Tuesday's recall election were council members Pat McKinley, Don Bankhead and F. Richard Jones. McKinley was serving as mayor pro tem.
For each of the three councilmen, about 66% of the voters favor recall, according to complete but unofficial election results released by the Orange County registrar of voters, Neal Kelley.
Fullerton voters on Tuesday also selected three replacements. Travis Kiger will fill Jones' term, which expires December 4; Doug Chaffee will replace McKinley, whose term ends December 2, 2014; and Greg Sebourn will fill Bankhead's term, which also ends December 2, 2014.
At a preliminary hearing last month, two officers were ordered by a judge to stand trial in the death of Thomas, who was shirtless and carrying a backpack when police responded to a call that a transient male fitting Thomas' description was trying car door handles at the city bus depot.
Officer Manuel Ramos, 37, is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, and Cpl. Jay Patrick Cicinelli, 39, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and felony use of excessive force. They have pleaded not guilty.
Tony Bushala, a leading organizer of the Fullerton recall election, said he was seeking accountability for Thomas' death.
"There was a murder right here at the transportation center of an unarmed homeless man at the hands of our government, our police department, and somebody needs to hold them accountable," Bushala said. "Somebody needs to step up to the plate, and when there's something in the community that's wrong and if you have the money and you have the time, then you need to stop what you're doing and focus on getting your community back on track."
Bushala, a property developer in Fullerton, spent more than $200,000 of his own money on the effort to hold the recall election. Bushala is also an activist and blogger.
Critics have accused Bushala of trying to install council members who would favor his business interests and development projects, but Bushala denied those accusations and said his efforts were to right a wrong, adding that the police union had too much influence on the city council.
On Tuesday, McKinley, one of the three councilmen facing recall, said an "incredible" amount of money was behind the recall campaign.
Regarding Thomas' death, McKinley said: "If we would have let our feelings be known that we were appalled by all this -- just like anyone else we were appalled by it -- perhaps it would have quelled it a bit, but I think it would've went forward anyway."
The city was expected to spend between $129,000 and $160,000 on the recall election.