Anaheim City Council Members are expected to decide Tuesday how to fill an empty spot on the dais following the resignation of Jordan Brandman earlier this month.
Brandman resigned on Aug. 5, 2021 after controversy over a vulgar text he sent regarding former councilwoman Denise Barnes where he described her as an “unf******believably selfish c***”, adding, “As my mother would say, ‘i’m gonna rip her f****** t*** off.”
Debates on city council vacancies have popped up this year in Costa Mesa, Orange, Cypress and most notably Huntington Beach following the resignation of Tito Ortiz.
Now another debate is set to take off in Anaheim Tuesday.
Brandman’s vulgar texts were first made public earlier this year by local political observer and blogger Vern Nelson through the Orange Juice Blog, who at the time wrote:
“Should someone who speaks and writes about women this way, any women, when he’s around folks he’s comfortable with and considers friends […] continue to represent the people of Anaheim?”
Nelson, however, has since faced similar scrutiny over a series of sexual and vulgar messages to a Twitter user — telling the person to “suck my c*** I’m drunk,” among other statements — through the Orange Juice Blog’s account on the platform, detailed in this thread by @Inminivanhell, a local politics account.
In a Friday text message, Nelson told Voice of OC “I just have two things to say: 1. I didn’t write those gross messages, and 2. I apologize once again to the woman who received them.”
He then deferred to his wife, Donna Acevedo-Nelson, who in a phone conversation the same day claimed she sent the vulgar text messages — not Vern — out of private frustration with what she described as Vern’s fixation on local politics.
The Anaheim Democratic Club announced in an Aug. 18 tweet that Nelson had since “stepped back from running for the VP position” at the organization.
Democratic Party of Orange County Chair Ada Briceno in a tweet that same day, replying to @Inminivanhell’s thread, said:
“We cannot be silent. It deeply saddens me to see these types of messages towards women here and anywhere. Currently, Vern does not have a leadership position with @AnaheimDems or @DPOC – and the party has made it clear, we oppose misogyny in all forms.”
Meanwhile, Brandman addressed his own scandal in his resignation letter.
“Like for most, there are periods in our lives when we are faced with competing career and personal priorities,” Brandman wrote. “For that reason, I have decided it is in the best interest of me and my family to focus on them at this time.”
The council is made up completely of men.
According to Anaheim’s city charter, the vacancy will be filled by a city council appointment.
But, like in most cities, if the council doesn’t fill the seat in 60 days the decision will be left up to the Anaheim voters in a special election that the Orange County Registrar of Voters estimate would cost around $191,864 – $221,423, according to a staff report.
Anaheim council members will have until Oct. 4 to appoint someone or a special election will be triggered automatically.
The council could decide to make a direct appointment like Costa Mesa council members did in March when they appointed former Councilman John Stephens as Mayor or they can take applications to pick the new councilmember like other cities have done in the past.
In Huntington Beach, the application route resulted in close to 200 people vying for a seat at the dais to replace Tito Ortiz who resigned in June.
Some in HB were calling for the runner up Gracey Van Der Mark to be appointed or for a special election that was estimated to cost between $885,000 – $1 million.
For a while it looked like a special election was going to take place as the council deadlocked on a replacement for Ortiz.
But days away from triggering a special election, a majority of the council voted to appoint Rhonda Bolton to the dais, the first Black woman to serve on the Huntington Beach City Council.
Now there are efforts to recall a majority of the Huntington Beach City Council except for Erik Peterson.
There was even an effort to try and recall Bolton, who can not yet be recalled because she hasn’t served 90 days in office.
The uproar over the decision has led to Huntington Beach city officials to look into revising the city charter including the part on vacancies.
The debate over whether a special election should be held or the council picking someone often leads to some residents upset.
These debates have been an occurrence not only this year but in other cities in the county in previous years too.
During his tenure, Brandman — who represented Anaheim’s District 2 — failed to deliver on a campaign promise to support having signs officially recognizing Little Arabia in West Anaheim, which sits in the district he used to represent.
He also has never responded to multiple requests for comment everytime the Voice of OC has reported on Little Arabia in the past.
Rashad Al-Dabbagh, founder and executive director of the Arab American Civic Council who have been pushing for the designation, said he has faith the official recognition of Anaheim’s Little Arabia will happen sooner or later.
In a Friday phone interview, Al-Dabbagh said he hopes whoever becomes the council member for District 2 will listen to the Arab community who he said have given a lot to the city.
“And be open to as soon as he or she gets into office to move forward with at least starting the discussion of the designation and putting it on the agenda. I think that would be a great way to start as someone who will be representing Little Arabia and District 2,” he said.
The council is also expected to pick a new representative to serve on the Orange County Water District to replace Brandman on Tuesday.
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC staff writer and corps member at Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @photherecord.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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