Michael Vo was named Fountain Valley’s mayor Tuesday night, but not without drama, as his outspoken City Council colleague Mark McCurdy was skipped in the mayoral rotation process for the second year in a row.
It was a repeat of last year, when McCurdy was passed over for mayor pro term, although he was due to take that post based on the city’s rotation process. That would have made him the presumptive mayor for 2018.
But last year, Vo was promoted to mayor pro tem, skipping past McCurdy.
According to a Fountain Valley ordinance, council members choose the mayor and mayor pro tem from among themselves, based on seniority, for the one-year, largely ceremonial posts.
McCurdy and Vo have been on the council since 2010, but McCurdy received more votes in that election.
Last year, council members Steve Nagel and Cheryl Brothers cited McCurdy’s absences and opposition to attending meetings on the city’s strategic plan. The plan encompasses goals to help the city increase economic stability, promote business and maintain facilities.
McCurdy told the council at the time that he wasn’t elected to “go along to get along.”
He stuck to his guns Tuesday, as did Nagel.
Nagel asked McCurdy if he would still not attend strategic planning meetings. McCurdy said he would not, citing their lack of detailed minutes. He also noted that they are not televised and are held early in the morning away from City Hall.
Nagel called these “ideological” reasons. McCurdy said it was “a matter of conscience.”
McCurdy said last year’s leadership vote went against the city ordinance and that he was targeted, dampening his morale.
“I feel that this happened because I simply have a different opinion,” he said. “We were not elected to be a club of like-minded people, but in fact as a deliberative body. We are here to discuss things, not to all agree. So having a different philosophy, opinion or vote should not be a crime. You should not be penalized.”
McCurdy said he attended all meetings in 2013, when he was last mayor.
“I received nothing but praise and recognition for that year and there wasn’t a thing that I missed, and I want an opportunity to do that again without being passed over,” he said.
About a half-dozen people spoke in his defense Tuesday.
“In making Mr. Vo the mayor, this city will be disenfranchising all the city residents who voted to elect Mr. McCurdy to represent them,” said Fountain Valley resident Tom Gergen. “That’s an insult to those people, and you will be tainting Mr. Vo’s term as the mayor.”
Patrick Tucker said installing McCurdy “is the moral and ethical and, I’ll even say, kind thing to do.”
“We could use a little more kindness in this world, don’t you think?”
Outgoing Mayor John Collins reminded the audience that he voted last year to keep McCurdy in his place in the rotation.
“I will do the same this year,” he said. “The rotation system is something that we should do so we won’t have three people who then take over this council and just vote for each (other) every year.”
Nagel told McCurdy that he also skipped other city events, including a round of interviews with city manager candidates.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with your voting record, Mr. McCurdy,” Nagel said. “This has to be with your behavior and showing up for events.”
“It’s not in here,” McCurdy replied, holding up a copy of the ordinance. “It’s not.”
Colin Burns, the city’s attorney, said the ordinance allows the council discretion in installing mayors and mayors pro tem.
Tuesday’s leadership votes were 4-1 for Vo as mayor, with McCurdy dissenting, and 3-2 for Nagel as mayor pro tem, with McCurdy and Collins voting no.
This is Vo’s second term as mayor. He made Fountain Valley history with his first term in 2013, when he was named the city’s first Vietnamese-American mayor.
A crowd of his supporters packed the council chamber Tuesday, spilling into City Hall’s lobby and into an overflow room, where the meeting was being shown on television.
“I am extremely honored to be entrusted with this responsibility to represent this great city,” Vo said. “We have a strong work force, a prime geographic location, very low crime rate and some of the best-performing schools in the state of California. We have the best weather and a great community spirit.”