With nine months still left in his term, Gary Monahan abruptly announced Friday that he will step down as mayor of Costa Mesa, effective next week. He will remain on the City Council.

“Due to increased family and business commitments, I believe it is in the best interest of the citizens of Costa Mesa that I step down as mayor,” wrote Monahan in a short resignation letter released by the city.

The City Council will hold a special meeting Tuesday to appoint his successor.

The resignation comes as a surprise. Monahan made no mention of plans to step down at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. He did not return a call seeking comment, and city spokesman Bill Lobdell offered no additional information.

Monahan was appointed mayor at the end of 2010, and his term won’t expire until December.

Although there is nothing to indicate that Monahan is stepping down for any other reason than those mentioned in his letter, he is leaving his post during a period in which he has been a lightning rod for controversy.

Monahan has faced criticism in recent weeks from the city’s medical marijuana community over federal raids on Costa Mesa’s pot dispensaries. The mayor was courting medical marijuana supporters and seeking their campaign contributions days before the raids began in January.

It was later revealed that Monahan and the rest of the council secretly authorized a letter last fall requesting federal intervention, which an expert says violated the state open meetings law.

The episode sparked pleas for a policy reversal and outrage from marijuana supporters.

Also, Voice of OC recently reported that while Monahan was describing his city as facing a financial crisis last year, he requested and received more than $6,000 of city-funded landscape improvements in front of his bar and may have violated the city municipal code by making the request directly to a department head.

Monahan previously was Costa Mesa mayor for two years beginning in December 1998 and completed the term of another mayor beginning in May 2003, according to the city’s website.


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