Former Hollister Councilman Ray Friend submitted his resignation four days before a deadline after which the city could no longer place his seat on the ballot, according to an email obtained by San Benito Live.
Friend sent his resignation email to City Manager Bill Avera, three fellow council members and the mayor on July 11 at 2:58 p.m. That was four days before the July 15 deadline for the city to declare his District 1 seat open for the Nov. 6 ballot, according to the email document and elections code law. It was also nearly two weeks after Friend started the process of selling his home for an eventual move to Washington state.
He noted in the email to other council members, the mayor and city manager that his final council meeting would be Aug. 6 and he would resign Aug. 7.
“This morning I instructed the city clerk that the meeting of Aug sixth will be my last meeting as I am resigning from the Hollister city council on the seventh of Aug.,” Friend wrote to city officials, according to the email obtained through a California Public Records Act request.
Barring pressure to resign earlier, however, that Aug. 7 date left the council without an option to place his open seat on the November ballot since his official resignation date came after the July 15 deadline.
Friend has stated on multiple occasions in public that he resigned so he could move closer to family in Washington state. As for why he waited until July 11 to announce his resignation, the former councilman told San Benito Live this week that he didn’t resign until he bid on a house in Washington in July, although he started the process of selling his Hollister home in late June when a real estate agent listed it as “Coming Soon” on Facebook.
“I just wanted to put the house up,” Friend said in an interview this week. “I knew I was going to be moving somewhere.”
He said that at the time he started the process to list his home, he wasn’t sure when and where he might move.
By law in the election code, a municipality must declare a seat open for an election before the candidate nomination period begins, which is 113 days before the Nov. 6 election, or July 16, confirmed Deputy County Clerk Angela Curro.
With the cut-off date past, council members this week debated whether to hold a special election March 5, the earliest possible date to do so, and opted instead to move forward with an appointment for the seat.
The city council’s vote Monday was 3-1, with Mayor Ignacio Velazquez dissenting. Council members Jim Gillio, Mickie Luna and Karson Klauer decided they preferred to instead appoint the next District 1 council member to fill out the remaining two years and two months left on the term.
They opted for an appointment after City Clerk Christine Black informed them in Monday’s meeting that March 5 is the earliest possible date for a special election — as stated in the election code — and that it would cost $75,000 to $150,000 based on estimates provided by the San Benito County Elections Office.
After re-examining those figures upon request from San Benito Live, Black clarified Wednesday a district election for the open council seat would cost an estimate of “up to $75,000” and that a citywide election, which doesn’t apply to the District 1 situation, would cost up to $150,000. As Black stressed Wednesday, though, council members before their decision Monday focused most of their concerns — regarding a prospective special election — on the possibility of leaving the seat open for five additional months beyond the Oct. 1 meeting where they plan to appoint a replacement.
“If somebody has a conflict here and they cannot vote, there goes the project,” Luna said in the Monday meeting. “There goes any action that needs to be taken for the betterment of the community and our city.”
In Monday’s meeting, Klauer actually recused himself on a subdivision project. With a 2-1 vote and the mayor dissenting, the project request failed.
A conflict of interest, which has come up on many occasions with the current council makeup, would leave three voting members and the vacant seat. Most considerations require three votes for approval, but the mayor has been at odds with other council members on an array of matters, particularly development issues.
One of those matters where the mayor disagreed with others was the special election consideration.
“I just believe that the citizens of District 1 should have the right to vote for their representative, especially since there’s still a two-year term left,” Velazquez said Wednesday.
Gillio, himself appointed shortly after former Councilman Roy Sims abruptly resigned in March 2017 due to a move out of district three months after taking office, agreed with that sentiment Monday.
“I definitely appreciate your point about people and their right to vote,” he said.
But Gillio said he was concerned about a “big gap” without someone in the seat, and added how the council did a “great job” and was transparent when selecting him for an appointment. He said the council has no favorites picked for the role and encouraged residents to apply.
“You have every opportunity to be here,” he said. “This council has not selected anybody.”
Klauer echoed others’ sentiments about the Gillio appointment in 2017.
“I’m comfortable with the way the process went the first time so I’d like to stick with it,” he said.
The council had 60 days from the official resignation date to take some sort of action on the seat, Curro confirmed. The city can’t publish the announcement in the newspaper, as required, until Aug. 31. The city will then allow 14 days for applications, enough time to interview them and decide on an appointment Oct. 1, Black said.