Ex-Orange Cove Mayor Victor Lopez returns to politics

FRESNO, California

After a year out of office, Lopez is trying to get onto city council by recalling two current council members. Lopez could only stay out of politics for so long.

"I say I'm coming back," he told Action News.

Just a year after his three-decade run as mayor of Orange Cove came to an end, Lopez is trying to wiggle his way back in. "We're getting ready for a recall," he said. "We're going to recall Frank Martinez, councilman, and Glenda Hill, councilwoman, because they have done a very poor job already. They're running the city into a bankruptcy."

Lopez says the city has fallen into money trouble since he was voted out of office and the man who beat him at the ballots, Gabriel Jimenez, agrees. His signature is number 11 on the petition to recall the two city council members who were often at odds with Lopez.

Jimenez says Hill and Martinez have personal vendettas against Lopez -- even removing the former mayor's name from the community center he helped get built.

Lopez and Jimenez also question the council's spending on the budget for the police department -- a department started in 2009 over then-mayor Lopez's objection.

"I believe his quote was 'over his dead body,'" said Orange Cove Police Chief Frank Steenport.

Steenport is standing his ground. He says the department's budget is only slightly more than Orange Cove paid the Fresno County sheriff's office for part-time coverage -- compared to the 24/7 police presence now in the city. And, he says, Lopez may not be playing fair on the recall.

"It is my understanding that there were some images in the first group of petitions that were collected and served on the city clerk," Steenport said.

Sheriff's investigators are now looking at the petitions and so far, they've found no foul play.

Lopez needs about 400 signatures to force a recall election.

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