Huntington Beach council members seek censure of fellow member O’Connell

Huntington Beach Councilman Billy O'Connell is being criticized by some of his council colleagues for remarks he made Oct. 16. They have requested that he be censured.
Huntington Beach Councilman Billy O’Connell is being criticized by some of his council colleagues for remarks he made Oct. 16. They have requested that he be censured.
(File Photo )

Three members of the Huntington Beach City Council have requested that Councilman Billy O’Connell be censured for comments he made last month that they feel violated California’s open-meetings law.

Near the end of the seven-member council’s Oct. 16 meeting, O’Connell said he had received a memo containing allegations from a Police Department manager. He did not elaborate but said he felt it could compromise the city manager’s office, city attorney’s office and the police.

“And if not compromised, [there could be] at least the appearance of being compromised,” he added.

O’Connell requested that an independent investigator and Mayor Barbara Delgleize look into the matter.

“And if not, I would like to trust but verify,” he said.

Delgleize responded that his remarks were not on the agenda. There was no other public discussion.

Since then, Delgleize, Councilwoman Lyn Semeta and Councilman Erik Peterson have requested the censure, or official reprimand, saying the portion of the meeting when O’Connell made his remarks is reserved for comments about attending events or offering gratitude.

“No official city business or serious matters to be discussed or considered by the City Council are to be discussed during this portion of the meeting,” the three wrote in a staff report.

They called O’Connell’s comments an “attempt to call into question the integrity and character of the city manager’s office, city attorney’s office and the Police Department. These offensive statements were likely illegal and may jeopardize the integrity of the investigation that may occur.”

They noted that City Hall receives such complaints “all the time,” but officials’ handling of them is “not subject to public disclosure” during the time of review.

“Raising an issue for comment or discussion of substance or councilwide concern without properly agendizing the issue in advance is a Brown Act violation,” the three argued.

The council members are calling for a resolution that publicly admonishes O’Connell and requests his public apology.

They also warned that similar future comments could result in O’Connell being forbidden from speaking at meetings or being kicked out of City Hall.

O’Connell, a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who founded a center helping homeless women and children, was elected to the council in 2014. He is up for reelection next year.

Homeless advocacy group facing eviction

City officials are recommending that the council end its agreement for a homeless advocacy group to operate near Central Park.

The move would evict Beach Cities Interfaith Services, which operates out of mobile units at 18131 Gothard St., south of Central Park’s baseball fields, by Jan. 8.

City officials contend that since BCIS went to Gothard Street, police and emergency calls have increased in the Central Park area, as have vehicle thefts and acts of “major vandalism.” They also reported nine fires near homeless encampments.

BCIS was first notified of an eviction earlier this year. In July, dozens of people showed up at City Hall to rally for the group and praise its services.

BCIS was granted an extension, though leaders had hoped the eviction would be canceled. The group says it does a good job of preventing homelessness for people from Huntington Beach and provides much-needed food supplies.

BCIS has been at Gothard Street since 2014 after losing its space at the Main Street library.

Denial recommended for house relocation

City officials also are recommending the council deny a preservationist’s request to move a historical home to a downtown property.

Joseph Santiago is seeking several variances to put the nearly 2,000-square-foot home, built in 1905 and noted for its Colonial Revival and Victorian architectural touches, at 506 Seventh St.

The Planning Commission denied the project in June, though Santiago appealed the decision.

Some neighbors have objected to the relocation, saying the house — once owned by John and Martha Hearn, who have ties to Huntington Beach’s early history — is too small for the Seventh Street lot, which already has a house and a detached garage.

Monday’s council meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 2000 Main St.

Twitter: @BradleyZint