A citizens group Tuesday night served Fountain Valley City Councilman Fred Voss with formal notice of its intent to recall him on grounds that his conviction last month for soliciting sex from an undercover Santa Ana police officer makes him unworthy to hold public office.
Voss, 52, said to a crowd gathered in the nearly full City Council chambers that he was hurt by the fact that people he considered friends were involved in the recall drive. But he vowed to fight for his council seat. He has 18 months remaining in his 4-year term.
Voss, a telephone-systems manager for the county and divorced father of two adult sons, was arrested Jan. 30 on suspicion of soliciting sex from an undercover female police officer posing as a prostitute at the intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Washington Avenue in Santa Ana.
Among 16 Arrested
He was among 16 men arrested that night on Harbor--the site of a highly publicized and continuing police action to rid the area of prostitutes and their customers.
By law, the Fred Voss Recall Committee had to notify the councilman of its ouster intentions, either by certified mail or in person.
Bob Moss, leader of the recall drive that was launched unofficially at a March 8 council meeting, said the group was hoping to add further pressure on Voss to resign his post by confronting him again in public.
Once the recall petitions are reviewed by the city clerk, the group will have 120 days to circulate petitions and gather signatures of registered voters. It would take 6,150 signatures--or 20% of the registered voters in Fountain Valley--to qualify the recall issue for a special election ballot. Such an election would cost the city about $45,000 to conduct, according to Fountain Valley City Clerk J.E. de Serren Jacquet.
Tuesday night, 18 people addressed the City Council on the issue of Voss' recall, divided evenly between those in favor and those against.
Don Chaney, a candidate in last year's City Council election, said he favored the recall and called Voss' offense "a gross lack of judgment."
"As a public figure you are subject to greater restrictions, whether you like it or not," Chaney said.
Chaney said it bothered him that youths arrive at City Hall to receive community awards from Voss.
"I think it's a disgrace for those young people to have to face you," he told Voss.
Bill De Fraga vowed to support Voss and oppose the recall. Another speaker said he, too, opposed the recall movement, adding "I really think this problem has been addressed . . . and we should stop beating this one into the ground."
De Fraga's wife, Roberta, also opposed a recall, saying voters should not "allow a few people with a frivolous action" to call for an election based on "one person's moment of indiscretion."
Then she addressed Voss directly: "Fred, I'm proud to be your friend. I'll stand behind you all the way."
In his first public comment since his arrest, a noticeably shaken and bitter Voss met with reporters last week and announced he was stepping down as mayor because it is such a visible post.
He said the recall organizers were being unfair by weighing what he called one mistake against 20 years of community service but was resigning as mayor in the interests of the city, his family and friends.
Voss stopped short of denying that he solicited the undercover officer for sex--a misdemeanor charge to which he pleaded no contest on Feb. 27. But the two-time mayor said police accounts of his arrest were "not true."
He has not elaborated further about the case.