Councilman Tad Honeycutt is the target of a recall attempt.

Retired real estate broker E. T. Snell has begun the process of attempting to recall the two-term councilman, who is currently under indictment in connection with the collapse of the California Charter Academy.

"The average person doesn't even understand [the allegations against Honeycutt], and they don't want to understand," Snell said Wednesday. "And that's why we're in the mess we're in."

Honeycutt and co-defendant C. Steven Cox face 117 felony charges between them, including misappropriation of public funds, grand theft, failure to file a state tax return and filing a false tax return. Honeycutt faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Former CCA head Cox could get up to 64 years in prison.

The charges filed against Cox and Honeycutt last year specifically address 37 transactions in which a total of $5.5 million was transferred from the non-profit CCA to its for-profit subsidiaries. The funds were allegedly transferred without the legally required oversight from the governing board.

Once the largest chain of charter schools in the state, with 60 campuses serving 4,500 students, California Charter Academy closed its doors in August 2004, after running out of operating funds, leaving thousands of students without a classroom on the eve of the 2004-2005 school year. In an audit report commissioned by the California Department of Education and released in April 2005, CCA officials and officials in spin-off operations, like the for-profit subsidiary Everything For Schools headed up by Honeycutt, were accused of misusing $23 million in taxpayer funds.

Honeycutt's next scheduled court appearance is in August.

"How can he sit there, after what he's done?" Snell asked. "He's not going to go. He's going to sit there until the last minute."

The last attempted recall in Hesperia was aimed at three members of the Hesperia Unified School District school board. It ended on April 8, and recall proponents failed to get the signatures required to place the question of whether to recall Hardy Black, Robert Kirk and Lee Rogers on the ballot of a special election. Proponents collected just under three-quarters of the nearly 7,000 signatures needed for each board member.

Snell faces an even tougher challenge because, unlike the HUSD recall organizers, he doesn't live in the sphere of influence of the Hesperia City Council. As an Apple Valley resident, he can't gather signatures on his petition. He can't even sign it himself.

But he plans to use the Internet to get the petitions to voters, via his Web site, SBCountyRecall.com.

"Just download it off the Internet," he said. "It's up to them."

Honeycutt isn't the only elected official Snell hopes to recall: Assessor Bill Postmus, 1st District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt and District Attorney Mike Ramos each appear on draft petitions Snell has submitted to the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters.

"We have guys giving their lives for this country," Snell said. "Some want to give it all, and some want to take it all."

Snell is on his third draft of his petition to recall Honeycutt, which has to be approved by Hesperia City Clerk Vicki Soderquist before it can be distributed. On it, Snell sums up his complaints against the councilman in a single phrase: "refuses to take responsibility for his actions."

By law, Honeycutt's written response must also be included on the petitions, but he chose not to give a response.

Honeycutt's term on the council ends this year. If Snell succeeds in gathering the almost 6,000 required signatures, a special election to potentially recall Honeycutt would take place in the fall, months or weeks before his term would end anyway.

"I was not planning on running again," Honeycutt said Wednesday. "I'm not really concerned either way. If he was able to get the signatures to recall me, I probably should be recalled."

As for the recall's chances, Snell said it's in the hands of the voters.

"It just depends if people want their government back," he said.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.