About 100 Fullertonians -- a rather homogenous crew of sexagenarians and older -- gathered at a pricey fundraiser tonight to support three beleaguered city leaders.
Mayor F. Richard Jones
, Mayor Pro Tem Don Bankhead
and Councilman Pat McKinley
have faced sharp criticism recently, following what many in the town call a lack of leadership after Fullerton policemen beat Kelly Thomas
, a homeless man with schizophrenia, to death in July. Businessman and blogger Tony Bushala,
whose Friends For Fullerton's Future
blog broke the Thomas story, is a vocal opponent of the three men and he launched a campaign to recall them.
A few weeks after Bushala launched the recall, however, an anti-recall group popped up. And, the group, called "Protect Fullerton - Recall NO!
" isn't shy about disliking Bushala. A recent update on their website
calls Bushala a "bully" and accuses him of trying to use Thomas' death for his own benefit.
Members of Kelly's Army walk out of the anti-recall event.
Marisa Gerber/ OCWeekly
Although a few minutes at tonight's event were spent bashing Bushala, most of the time was spent defending the actions of the three men.
Larry Bennett, a spokesman for the anti-recall group, lauded the three men for keeping their mouths "zipped" after Thomas' death, adding that he thinks it would have been "both criminally and civilly wrong" if they hadn't. "These three gentlemen have been the height of leadership," Bennett said.
Next, the three men thanked the group and then each shared remarks. Jones spoke only briefly and ended with a biblical reference: "Know the truth and it will set you free."
Bankhead said he wanted to clarify an allegation that he is only on the council to increase his retirement, calling the claim false. He said he knew he'd been accused of two other things, too, but said they were so ridiculous that he couldn't even remember what they were. Finally, he took aim at Councilman Bruce Whitaker'
s claims that the city tried to cover-up Thomas' killing
. "It's time to show the proof," Bankhead said.
McKinley, the city's longtime police chief, spoke last, and said after years in law enforcement he's used to public criticism. He can handle it, he said, adding that what frustrated him most was hearing people "who probably never graduated high school" bad-mouth the mayor, who used to be a doctor. McKinley's comment drew an audible "boo" from a crew of about 10 people, mainly members of Kelly's Army
, who were standing in a nearby hallway outside the cordoned-off event listening to the speakers. McKinley ended by saying, "We're gonna win this thing, and if we don't, we're gonna fight like hell."
Tickets to the event cost $100 a person or $150 per couple, but for longtime resident Leroy Lance, it was "money well spent." He said he attended the event to support the three council members, but also because he isn't a fan of Bushala. "He's got a lot of class, and all of it's third."