Calling Councilman Richard Nichols an embarrassment to the city, Newport Beach Mayor Steve Bromberg called for Nichols’ resignation Tuesday as controversy continues to swirl over racially charged comments he made about Mexicans using a public beach.
Joining Bromberg in calling for Nichols’ resignation at Tuesday’s council meeting was Councilman Don Webb, who said he was “embarrassed to have to make excuses for him.” Over the last few days, each of Nichols’ six City Council colleagues has asked for his resignation.
Nichols did not attend the meeting because he is recovering from a leg infection, but he has said he has no intention of stepping down.
Bromberg said he had privately asked Nichols to resign and said he will pursue the resignation at the next council meeting by asking the city attorney to review the city’s options in disciplining Nichols, including possible censure.
Since the council cannot force Nichols to resign, Bromberg publicly called for his recall.
The controversy began last week after a local newspaper published a story with Nichols’ statements about Mexicans that were considered by many to be racist.
Nichols, asked his opinion about proposed improvements for Corona del Mar State Beach, said he opposed expanding the park’s grassy area because “with grass we usually get Mexicans coming in there early in the morning and they claim it as theirs and it becomes their personal, private grounds all day.”
He later said that his remarks were taken out of context, but he was unable to pacify his critics with explanations.
Resident Lloyd Ikerd said at Tuesday’s meeting that he had been so incensed by earlier comments by Nichols that he pulled recall papers from the city clerk’s office but hadn’t acted on them.
Ikerd said he will now begin collecting signatures: “I’ve been sitting on [the recall papers], giving him the benefit of the doubt. But I’m not sitting on them anymore. If Nichols does not resign, we will recall him.”
Nichols, 63, joined the council in November as a supporter of the Greenlight initiative, a growth-control measure passed by voters in 2000. He was publicly rebuked this month by council members for making a comment that suggested a planning commissioner was taking money for his vote on a zoning variance.
The council stopped short of censuring Nichols, but reprimanded him at a meeting.