Before FBI officials arrested nearly all of the top officials of a small Texas town, the residents had tried to boot many of them out on their own.

What happened to their recall effort can now be viewed from the prism of the stunning and blatant corruption that law enforcement officials say permeated Crystal City's leaders. Five were arrested in a pre-dawn raid Friday and charged with bribery and kickbacks related to an illegal gambling ring. There's now just one city councilman still in office who is not facing charges.

The raid hasn't ended the recall saga, though; both will play out in the courts, possibly simultaneously. And ultimately, it's up to the voters of Crystal City, a town that has seen decades of corruption and political drama, to decide which leaders in stay and which go.

To understand why, let's start go back a few decades:

The city actually has a reputation in Texas for political drama. During World War II, it was the site of a Japanese internment camp. And in the '70s, amid city leaders' infighting and finger-pointing, the town went bankrupt. An oil baron shut off Crystal City's gas for several winters when it became clear the city couldn't pay its bills. "Heaven Help Crystal City" read a 1980 "Texas Monthly" article.

The latest iteration of drama begins in 2013. That's when Republican D.C. lobbyist James Jonas III, previously in jail for not paying more than $10,000 a month in child support, got a job as Crystal City's city attorney — despite having no experience for the job.

Jonas, casting himself as a reformer for the downtrodden agricultural town more about 130 miles southwest of San Antonio, soon added "city manager" to his title. With the approval of the city council, Jonas was making $216,000 a year — three times as much as the city had spent the previous year for the same jobs, and more than half of the city's annual general-fund budget.

Residents of this town of about 7,500 people were not pleased, especially as they watched their taxes and utility bills go up. Crystal City is currently in debt and facing bankruptcy. The San Antonio Express-News reports that things became so heated at city council meetings that during one in January, eight police officers were asked to keep order.

Fed up, residents worked on two separate, very different methods of recourse. Ultimately, the two may depend on each other to succeed.

Some residents, including at least one former city councilman, went to the FBI three years ago to report shady dealings between city officials and a slot machine operator. (Known in Texas as "eight-liners," the cash-for-gambling machines are illegal in the state. But for many South Texas towns looking for revenue, they exist in a murky gray area.)

The ensuing corruption probe came to a head Friday with the arrest of Jonas, the mayor, two council members and a former council member. Another council member is facing human smuggling charges on an unrelated case.

Meanwhile, another group of residents began an effort to try to recall two city councilman and the mayor. (Jonas was not included in this particular effort, but residents said he was "their ultimate target"). They gathered more than 1,200 signatures, believing that would be enough to get their recall on the ballot.

Crystal City's charter says a recall petition must equal 51 percent of turnout of the previous municipal election. About 1,931 people voted in the May general election, meaning residents needed only 966 signatures. Or so they thought.

When they submitted their recall petition to Jonas this fall, as city charter dictates, he rejected it.

Sure, the petition has more than 51 percent of voters, he said, but city rules require 51 percent of votes cast to certify a recall petition. Two council races were on that ballot, so Jonas's reading of the rules meant there were about twice as many votes cast as actual voters. If people voted in both city council races, they would effectively be casting two votes each.

This, of course, raised the petition threshold significantly — and, notably, above the amount of signatures petitioners had gathered.

"Over 3,600 votes were cast because there were two council places," Jonas said at the time, according to the San Antonio Express-News. "Based on this, they would have had to submit over 1,800 signatures."

Residents behind the recall were understandably livid. They had been consulting with the Texas secretary of state every step of the way to make sure their i's were dotted and t's crossed. But the Texas secretary of state passed the political hot potato back to the city, saying the city's charter will probably have an answer.

Randall "Buck" Wood, a former director of elections for the secretary of state, weighed in on the controversy with the San Antonio Express-News, expressing disbelief at Jonas's reading of the rules.

"It makes no sense whatsoever to interpret it the other way. You cannot interpret a city charter in a manner that makes the outcome absurd," he said.

The recall effort is now in district court. Meanwhile, the corruption charges will play out in court separately.

But ultimately, what the courts decide on the recall election may matter more to residents. None of the officials charged by the FBI will immediately lose their positions. The U.S. attorney for San Antonio told the Associated Press, "It falls back on the citizens to make the next decision on who they put in those offices."

Back in November, Jonas was unapologetic while defending his reading of the recall effort.

"It's not ego, it's mission," he said. "Forces bigger than me brought me here, and it will take forces bigger than me to get me out."

In the end, that force may not be the FBI, but the residents themselves.