Two Pinole City Council members fighting recall have received the endorsement of the county Democratic Party, but a member of the party's executive committee says a resolution supporting the recall targets was "railroaded through."

"I feel that there was insufficient notice of this resolution," said Rich Verrilli, who also is editor of the Contra Costa County Democratic Party central committee's newsletter, Democratic Dispatch.

The agenda for Thursday night's party meeting only noted that Pinole Mayor Maria Alegria would attend, not that there would be a vote on a resolution.

"We never got into a detailed discussion of why the recall came about," Verrilli said Friday.

Alegria, who faces a recall election Feb. 5 along with Councilman Stephen Tilton, said in an e-mail Friday that she is grateful for the party's support.

"Once people learn the truth about the recall that it's bad public policy and about personal agendas, they will not only oppose the recall but reject the misleading tactics used by the recall organizers," she wrote.

Pinole Councilwoman Mary Horton, who backs a recall, said she learned about the party meeting from a fellow Pinole resident just hours before it began. Horton asked to speak but was cut off after about three minutes, while Alegria and Tilton each spoke five minutes or more, Verrilli said.

"I thought this was a very unfair procedure," Verrilli said. "We should always allow equal time to both sides.


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Party Chairman Nagaraja Rao, in a statement explaining the resolution after Thursday night's meeting in an Electrical Workers union hall in Martinez, said: "Good public policy should be based on facts and not on political alliances or falsehoods. The recall in Pinole is a distraction from the real issues facing Democrats, which is to work together to support Democratic principles and values.

"That's why we ask our fellow Democrats to reject the recall."

Alegria and Tilton are targeted for recall because of their role in dismissing former City Manager Belinda Espinosa and for their friendship with a local restaurateur who failed for two years to make payments on more than $400,000 in city loans.

Horton urged the committee Thursday to hold off on a resolution until the members got all the facts.

After the meeting, Rao said his members are quite aware of the issues from reading newspaper reports.

"We voted on the merits," Rao said.

Tilton said he is "very honored" that the county party offered its support.

"This is not something that happened in one day," he said. "This was a request two months ago by the mayor."

He said Horton, in her comments to the party, said nothing substantive about the recall.

"She said it was a grass-roots effort, but no one from the recall group showed up except Mary," he said.

Verrilli said he does not believe the party should interfere in a local, nonpartisan race.

Earlier this week, two other regional groups -- the Contra Costa Deputy Sheriffs Association and firefighters Local 1230, which represents Pinole as well as county and other city firefighters -- came out against the recall.

Jeff Rubin, spokesman for recall sponsor Concerned Citizens of Pinole, said he was not surprised by the county Democrats' stand.

"She (Alegria) can get 101 endorsements," Rubin said, "and with her connections, I wouldn't be surprised if she gets that many.

"But that doesn't discount the fact that 2,700 people signed petitions to remove her from office."

Rubin said he doubts whether organizations that are not based in Pinole will significantly affect the recall vote.

"Unions and other organizations always endorse candidates," Rubin said. "It's to be expected. Half the time they back a winner, half the time they back a loser."

Horton said Friday, "Why are all these outsiders telling Pinoleans how to think and vote?"

Reach Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760 or tlochner@bayareanewsgroup.com.