POMONA — Outraged at the actions taken by a new City Council majority, a citizens group has formed to seek the recall of a controversial councilman who is seen as the leader of the new coalition.
The Committee to Recall C. L. (Clay) Bryant held its first meeting last week to plot strategy for a petition drive that would take place in August. The group is a spinoff of Citizens for a Positive Pomona, which was created last month to protest the firing of City Administrator A. J. Wilson.
The new majority, forged when Councilman Tomas Ursua was sworn in April 24, has embarked on an aggressive campaign of change in city government. After firing Wilson on May 1, the coalition--composed of Bryant, Ursua and Councilwoman Nell Soto--eliminated three top administrative positions from the budget and have promised further cutbacks to free up money for more police officers.
At a meeting of Citizens for a Positive Pomona last month, 125 of 130 residents present favored recall as the way to stop the changes favored by the new majority, said Melody Peterson, co-chairwoman of the recall group. The consensus was also clear on which council member should be the focus of their efforts, she said.
"It was overwhelming that Clay Bryant was the one they wished to remove," Peterson said.
Even though the recall effort is in its early stages, it has already encountered stiff opposition from loyal Bryant supporters, who have formed a group called Citizens Against Recall.
"It's basically a bunch of citizens who just feel the recall is rather uncalled for," said Larry Rasmussen, chairman of the anti-recall group. "It is our basic belief that reasons for recall ought to be moral turpitude or the fact that you're ripping off the city. (The effort to recall Bryant) is really a disregard for political principles."
In an interview at his City Hall office, Bryant dismissed the recall movement with a wave of his hand.
"I have too much to do to worry about malcontents," Bryant said. "There's no more than 150 malcontents out there who are just sounding off. They don't understand what a time-consuming and expensive proposition (a recall) is. . . . It's all (Mayor) Donna Smith's activity, trying to keep a pot boiling when there's nothing in the pot."
The mayor, who has locked horns with Bryant numerous times since he was elected to the council in November, 1987, has denied any involvement in the recall movement. Smith said she is neutral on the drive to force Bryant out of office.
"I haven't done anything to encourage them," Smith said. "I hate to see a recall. . . . There aren't very many that are successful. But I'm glad to see responsible citizens stand up and say, 'That's enough.' If that's all that comes out of this movement, I applaud it. I'm glad to see citizens get involved in city government."
The recall group may not serve notice of its intentions to Bryant, who was reelected to a four-year term in March, until July 24. Under the state Elections Code, a candidate must be in office at least 90 days before a recall can be commenced.
Recall proponents plan to start gathering signatures in August and are hoping to force a special election on the recall next June. If an election were held and voters favored a recall, Bryant would be out of office the next day.
The length of the recall process was a major reason why the group did not set its sights on Soto, who is halfway through a four-year term. Ursua was not targeted because some members of the group said that he should be given a chance to show his independence of Bryant.
"He's new," Peterson said of Ursua. "A lot of people have a lot of hope in him. Clay has a track record on which to base decisions regarding a recall."
In addition to the actions of the new majority, recall proponents are also incensed by a letter from Bryant to the National Civic League, which bestows All-America City honor on 10 municipalities each year. Bryant asked the Denver-based organization not to give the award to Pomona because the city was undeserving.
Although she was spared a recall effort, Soto denounced the group seeking Bryant's ouster as divisive.
"Clay was just elected," Soto said. "I don't think Citizens for a Positive Pomona is being very positive. . . . Clay has been the champion for the people of Pomona and those out there whom he has helped know that and that's why they keep reelecting him."
Peterson said Bryant's support has waned since the last election gave him control of the City Council. She said many residents have become disillusioned by the actions of the majority and by incidents such as Bryant's statement that those who oppose him are "idiots, imbeciles and nobodies."
"These incidents have changed a lot of people's minds," Peterson said.