HUNTINGTON BEACH — The City Council on Monday night voted in a new mayor — Mike Posey — but broke with a decades-old rotation process, bypassing Councilman Billy O’Connell for mayor pro tem and putting Erik Peterson in the position, both by a 4-3 vote.
Councilwoman Lyn Semeta, who nominated Peterson, said her main reason to vote against O’Connell was his frequent recusals on the discussion of issues where he has conflicts of interest because of his property holdings and business interests in the city.
“He’s had to recuse himself so many times,” said Semeta, adding that the recusals would prevent him from running meetings effectively.
Peterson, who also voted against O’Connell, said the councilman has recused himself “well over 40 times,” since taking office.
O’Connell had also been criticized for his comments at an October meeting about allegations against the Police Department that he wanted investigated.
Three of his colleagues brought forward a request to censure O’Connell in the following meeting. The censure was dropped after O’Connell expressed regret in an early November meeting, but he again began speaking about his concerns in late November during his comments at the end of the meeting. In neither case was the police issue on the agenda.
“He seemed to have a disregard of protocol,” Semeta said about the extemporaneous comments.
After Monday’s meeting, O’Connell said he had “no comment whatsoever” about the vote.
“Those backroom decisions will kill ya,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll be back stronger than ever.”
Former mayor and current Councilwoman Jill Hardy spoke against bypassing O’Connell and said the resolution for the rotation of mayors was installed to stop backroom deals being made to choose mayors.
Although she said she was unaware of any brokering in regard to O’Connell, she said she understood why the public might think otherwise.
“I’m a real stickler for those things,” she said.
“It’s about fairness,” Hardy said of maintaining the process, “It should never be about a single person. It’s about what’s right and what’s better for the city.”
Peterson said he was shocked when he was nominated and had not discussed anything about it with his colleagues.
Former Mayor Peter Green, who helped craft the resolution to set up the rotation for mayor, spoke about the current system, which was adopted in the 1980s. Under the rotation system, council members advance by the…