This tumultuous year has proven the essential nature of nonpartisan local news. Every day we bring you news critical to staying informed and active in the community. Join us with a tax-deductible donation.

Huntington Beach City Councilman Mike Posey thinks it’s time for the city charter to be reviewed following a council vacancy debate that went on for about two months after Tito Ortiz’s abrupt resignation.

On Tuesday, Posey will ask his fellow council members to form an ad-hoc committee to look over the charter following the recent city council vacancy selection process that faced criticism from some Surf City residents.

“In an effort to strengthen our local democratic institutions, I am suggesting that a committee of the City Council be convened to develop recommended updates to the City Charter, including but not limited to a review of the vacancy appointment process,” reads the agenda report from Posey.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at Huntington Beach City Council Chambers and can be attended in person, via Zoom or streamed live on the city’s website.

§

The current city charter dictates that a vacancy will be filled by a council appointment and if council members can’t do so in 60 days then it will go to a special election.

A vacancy popped up on the dais when Ortiz — who garnered the most votes in Surf City history last year — quit out of concerns for his family’s safety and being targeted by the press at a council meeting on June 1st.

He bailed with more than three years left on his term and the city decided to accept applications to appoint a replacement.

On July 26, the city council appointed and swore in Rhonda Bolton, an attorney, with a 4-2 vote making her the first Black woman on the dais.

Rhonda Bolton being sworn in as a Huntington Beach City Councilwoman on July 26, 2021. Credit: Huntington Beach City live stream

Bolton’s appointment was made just days before the decision would have gone to a special election by default.

[Read: Rhonda Bolton Appointed to Huntington Beach City Council, Becoming First Black Woman on Dais]

It was a decision that created an uproar from some residents at the meeting who booed in protest. 

Some residents were calling for the runner up in the 2020 November Election — Gracey Van Der Mark — to replace Ortiz, or for the council to opt for a special election that would have cost the city between $885,000 to $1 million.

Not everyone wanted Van Der Mark, who in the past has been publicly criticized as being racist, Islamophobic and anti-semitic. She was also removed from two committees in Huntington Beach’s local school districts.

Others favored an appointment to avoid the cost of a special election while others saw a special election as the only solution.

Posey made a motion for a special election, but it only gained support from Councilman Erik Peterson.

For a while, it looked as though residents would get a chance to pick Ortiz’s successor at a special election when council members hit a stalemate at their July 19 special meeting.

Supporters of Gracey Van Der Mark cheer and clap at the Huntington Beach City Council meeting on July 19, 2021. Credit: LUPITA HERRERA, Voice of OC

At the end of that meeting, half of the council favored a special election including Councilwoman Barbara Delgleize.

But a week later Delgleize had changed her mind, siding with Councilmember Dan Kalmick, Natalie Moser and Mayor Kim Carr to appoint Bolton.

Now the California College Republicans and their chapters in Orange County are condemning Delgleize and supporting efforts to censure and recall her from office. 

“Delgleize’s vote to subvert the will of the people and install a leftist is nothing short of betrayal — both to the core values of the Party and the constituents she claims to represent,” reads a statement from the group.

§

Huntington Beach is not the first city to grapple with a city council vacancy. 

This year, at least four different cities in the county have had to decide how to fill an empty seat on the dais including Costa Mesa, Orange and Cypress.

The debate has also played out in Santa Ana, Irvine and Fullerton in past years.

[Read: Huntington Beach to Appoint New Council Member, Reviving a Debate Other OC Cities Tackled]

If the Huntington Beach City Council votes to form a charter review committee, they would bring recommended charter revisions to council members for a vote.

If the council approves the updates, Huntington Beach voters will get the ultimate say on the proposed charter revisions.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

Since you've made it this far,

You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.

Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.