Huntington Beach

No action taken on censure of O’Connell

HUNTINGTON BEACH City Council took no action Monday night on a proposal to censure Councilman Billy O’Connell (OC Tribune photo).

NOTE: This updated version includes additional remarks from the council meeting.

A proposal to censure City Councilman William “Billy” O’Connell for remarks made at an October meeting resulted in some heat, but no action at Monday’s meeting of the Huntington Beach City Council.

The idea of censuring O’Connell, and threatening to ban him from future meetings brought several public comments – all of them opposed– and some discussion among the council members, but the matter was eventually dropped.

The statements in question were made by O’Connell at the close of the Oct. 16 meeting. He referred to a complaint he received from what he described as a “manager within the police department” and suggested that this grievance indicated that “the city manager’s office, the city attorney’s office and the police department might be compromised, and if not compromised, at least the appearance of being compromised” and asked for a “third-party” investigation of the complaint.

He offered no specifics about the grievance.

Mayor Barbara Delgleize and Councilmembers Lyn Semeta and Erik Peterson originally asked that O’Connell be officially admonished, with the warning that he could be dismissed from council meetings if similar statements persisted. The proposed resolution of censure also demanded a public apology from O’Connell.

The memo from the three council members alleged that O’Connell’s remarks were a violation of the Brown Act, California’s public meetings law, and decorum and termed them “offensive.”

The non-action followed a discussion, which included some testy exchanges.

O’Connell began by saying “I regret that it happened.” City Attorney Michael Gates said that the Brown Act states that “council members are not allowed to discuss or comment on any item that has not already been agendized” and went on to suggest that any investigation might be compromised by discussing it in public.

HUNTINGTON BEACH Councilman William  O’Connell said he “regretted” remarks made at an Oct. 16 council meeting, and was involved in verbal exchanges at Monday’s council meeting with another councilman and the city attorney (City of HB video).

O’Connell suggested that Gates might have a conflict of interest, and the attorney replied that he had previously informed the councilman that he was going to recuse himself from any inquiry related to the complaint.

Later, in speaking about his comments, O’Connell said “If it needs to be done differently, I have no problem with that.” Peterson said “I hope you will abide by the rules. Censure isn’t what anybody wanted. We want you to follow the rules.”

But then O’Connell fired back “I think that’s a bit of hypocrisy. You should practice what you preach.”

Councilwoman Jill Hardy mentioned that Delgleize has “selected someone to investigate” the complaint, but no details were provided.

Also on Monday, the council voted 7-0 to approve the denial of an appeal that would have allowed several variances for the relocation of an historic home to property located at 506th 7th St. Over40 people spoke on the appeal, both in support and against.

The next city council meeting is set for Nov. 20.


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