Huntington Beach councilman says he’ll investigate his appointee’s ‘colored people’ remark on YouTube


Amid pressure from residents, a local school board member and the Anti-Defamation League, Huntington Beach City Councilman Patrick Brenden said Tuesday that he will investigate a member of city and school district panels who is alleged to have referred to minorities as “colored people” in a YouTube video.

“I received a ton of comments from both sides, [and] no one has done a whole lot to prove substantial evidence,” Brenden said of the allegations against Gracey Larrea-Van Der Mark, whom he appointed to the city Finance Commission in 2017.

Brenden said he initially asked the city manager Tuesday to look into starting an investigation but was told that responsibility falls on him because he appointed Larrea-Van Der Mark.


Brenden said he will continue to “dig into” the allegations and review public testimony.

Larrea-Van Der Mark, of Huntington Beach, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Though Brenden didn’t know Larrea-Van Der Mark before appointing her, he said he thought she would be a good addition to the Finance Commission after learning she had been recently appointed to the Ocean View School District’s Citizens Oversight Committee for Measure R by Trustee Gina Clayton-Tarvin. That committee was formed to provide oversight of expenditures related to a voter-approved bond measure for school facility improvements.

Last week, Clayton-Tarvin said she voiced her concerns about the “colored people” comment to the school board president and superintendent, saying the remark promotes bigotry and doesn’t reflect the school district. She also called on the city to remove Larrea-Van Der Mark from the Finance Commission.

In an emailed statement Tuesday, Supt. Carol Hansen said the district is reviewing the concerns and researching possible steps.

Brenden’s decision to investigate comes after 11 people, including Peter Levi, Orange County regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, called on the city during Monday night’s council meeting to take action against Larrea-Van Der Mark.

Levi sent letters to the City Council and the Ocean View School District on Friday, urging them to remove Larrea-Van Der Mark from both panels. The letter lists the civil rights organization’s own allegations against her, including anti-Semitic and racist online comments and activities.


“We don’t always write letters, but when we do, it’s when we feel strongly to take this statement and do what is right and accurate,” Levi said Monday. “It’s not about liberals or conservatives, it’s about extremists beyond the spectrum of right and left. It’s not on the spectrum when we … go down white supremacist realms.”

Larrea-Van Der Mark’s online activity has received heightened attention since she spoke in support of Huntington’s Beach’s plan to file a lawsuit against California to challenge the legality of state mandates that expand protections for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.

Days after the City Council approved the lawsuit this month, OC Weekly reported that Larrea-Van Der Mark made the “colored people” comment in a video she uploaded to YouTube in 2017 showing protesters crashing an anti-racism workshop in Santa Monica by a group called Committee for Racial Justice.

According to the paper, Larrea-Van Der Mark wrote: “This meeting was being ran by the elderly Jewish people who were in there. The colored people were there doing what the elderly Jewish people instructed them to do.”

It isn’t clear when Larrea-Van Der Mark made the comments, which have since been deleted.

Brenden described Larrea-Van Der Mark as a caring and helpful person and said the allegations against her form a “disconnect” with what he has known of her firsthand.

“It’s made me aware, and I’m concerned I may be getting slanted, politically driven information,” he said.


Vega writes for Times Community News