Frequent recusals fueled Huntington Beach council’s decision not to name Billy O’Connell mayor pro tem

Members of the Huntington Beach City Council say they opposed making Councilman Billy O’Connell the next mayor pro tem because he has to recuse himself on too many issues.
(File Photo )

The City Council majority’s decision not to bring Huntington Beach Councilman Billy O’Connell into the rotation for mayor was fueled by his colleagues’ concern that he recuses himself too much at meetings, council members said.

On Monday, the council rejected member Jill Hardy’s recommendation to appoint O’Connell to the mayor pro tem position, which would have put him in line to become mayor next year.

Instead, council members Barbara Delgleize, Mike Posey (the new mayor), Erik Peterson and Lyn Semeta favored Peterson. The move required a procedural vote to set aside a 1990s-era city resolution that otherwise would have assigned O’Connell as mayor pro tem.

Hardy cited the resolution in stating that because O’Connell received more votes than Peterson in the 2014 election — when both men were first elected — he should become the next mayor pro tem. The council member in that position helps the mayor when he or she is absent, but, like the mayor’s post, it is largely ceremonial.

On Wednesday, Delgleize said she made her decision because O’Connell recuses himself too often. Her comments echoed those previously stated by Peterson and Semeta.

O’Connell, a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, has various business interests in the city that have prevented him from voting on some issues, such as one Monday involving Beach Boulevard of Cars. He also is the founder of Colette’s Children’s Home, which helps homeless women and children.

“How do you have a mayor pro tem who recuses himself?” Delgleize said. “You just have to have somebody you can count on.”

O’Connell could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

The mayor pro tem decision also came weeks after O’Connell faced possible censure, or formal reprimand, from his colleagues in reaction to his public comments about an internal city complaint filed by a Police Department manager.

Three of the council members who didn’t vote for O’Connell on Monday — Delgleize, Peterson and Semeta — had requested the censure, contending that O’Connell violated state law by discussing the confidential issue in an open council session in October.

The council ultimately decided against the censure. O’Connell later called the matter a politically motivated “kangaroo proceeding.”

Twitter: @BradleyZint