10:26 PM PST on Friday, December 11, 2009

By DUANE W. GANG and DUG BEGLEY
The Press-Enterprise

Backers seeking to recall four indicted San Jacinto city councilmen will need nearly 3,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot.

“The passions are running extremely high in the city on this,” said Brian Hildreth, an attorney for the recall effort. “I suspect that this will qualify for the ballot in a quarter of the time we would need.”

At their first council meeting since a being charged in a 155-count indictment, Mayor Dale Stubblefield, Councilman Jim Ayres and Councilman James Potts were served Thursday with notices of intention, one of the first steps in the formal recall process.

The three, along with Councilman John Mansperger and five others, are charged with conspiring to subvert state campaign-finance laws and falsifying campaign reports. All have pleaded not guilty.

When a process server pulled the recall papers from a folder and presented them to the councilmen, they made no initial comment and appeared expressionless.

Mansperger, whose wife had a baby last weekend, was absent from Thursday’s meeting. By early Friday afternoon, he had not yet been served with his recall papers, Hildreth said.

Stubblefield, who declared his innocence at the start of the council meeting, said the process will need to run its course. During a break in the meeting, he said the calls for the four councilmen to resign and the threat of recall is “how this works in America.”

“They have every right,” Stubblefield said, adding he still had no intention of resigning.

Potts struck a similar note. “This is what our country is all about,” he said of the recall. “People are starting and we’ll see what we see.”

Ayres — who first won a seat on the council in a 1999 recall election — declined to comment.

The notices of intention served Thursday trigger a series of events that must take place before the recall can qualify for the ballot.

The councilmen have seven days to file a written response.

From there, proponents — the San Jacinto Corruption Recall Active Movement, or SCRAM — must submit a sample petition to the city clerk. Only after that is approved can they begin gathering signatures.

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