Reporting Stacey Butler
FULLERTON (CBS) — An Orange County businessman has poured thousands of dollars — he says more than $200,000 — of his own money into a campaign to recall three members of the Fullerton City Council.
He said he wants them gone — for their lack of leadership in the Kelly Thomas fatal beating case.
But his opponents say it’s much more about power and money.
Stacey Butler, reporting for KCAL9 and CBS2, talks to both sides and reveals what is at stake for voters Tuesday.
Fullerton resident Bob Muschek shows Butler where a campaign sign stood just an hour ago. “But now it’s gone.”
In the city of Fullerton, sign stealing might just be … a sign.
The Kelly Thomas beating case has had implications far beyond the police department. Butler says it’s fueled a political battlefield.
One one side, those opposed to the recall of three city council members — namely Pat McKinley, Richard Jones and Don Bankhead.
Muschek is a supporter of the embattled council members, “I think the people who are up for recall are good people who are doing the best job they can.”
On the other side, a group calling themselves “Kelly’s Army.”
One member of the Army made her feelings known when she screamed at the council at a recent meeting: “It’s time for you to go!
Christine Walker was so upset by the beating, she gathered signatures calling for a recall. She says she would have done the work for free. But campaign finance records show she was paid nearly $2,500. “About $10 an hour. That’s not making much.”
The force behind the recall, Fullerton businessman and blogger Tony Bushala, cut the check.
Why is he footing the bill? “I’m doing that because there was a man who was unarmed and innocent right here at this spot and the three city council members covered it up.”
Bushala estimates he has spent more than $200,000 of his own money. “I enjoy shining the light with my money and my blog on corrupt politicians who are not only corrupt but they’re also hypocrites.”
Only two other Fullerton residents contributed to the recall fund. And they paid about $100 each.
Larry Bennett, a Fullerton resident and planning commission member, says Bushala is in it for the power. “He’s not done well with development in town in the last three years. He’s run active campaigns against the recall targets both in 2008 and 2010. He loses every time at the polls so when the Kelly Thomas tragic death occurred, that was his opportunity to create a crisis in Fullerton and demand these three gentlemen be recalled.”
Bennett opposes the recall — and Bushala — and he has helped raise $89,000 from over 300 pro-council members. Bennett believes Bushala is backing three candidates so that they will ultimately greenlight his pet projects.
Bushala denies this. “I don’t have any pet projects…they’re putting it off on me.”
Kelly Thomas’ father, Ron, has long known Bushala is funding the recall. He supports the effort and believe three new voices could be the change he’s fighting for. “Some people are changing their minds at the last minute now. It’s coming down to zero hour and people are starting to think.”