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Huntington Beach council doesn’t censure Councilman O’Connell; he calls it a ‘kangaroo proceeding’

The Huntington Beach City Council did not move forward with censuring Councilman Billy O'Connell, pictured, over comments he made last month that some council members felt were inappropriate and violated state law.
The Huntington Beach City Council did not move forward with censuring Councilman Billy O’Connell, pictured, over comments he made last month that some council members felt were inappropriate and violated state law.
(File Photo )

The Huntington Beach City Council declined to censure Councilman Billy O’Connell on Monday night following public comments he made last month about an internal city matter.

O’Connell said at Monday’s meeting that he regretted his comments, but in an interview Tuesday, he called the censure discussion a “kangaroo proceeding” that was politically motivated.

For the record:

5:10 PM, Nov. 10, 2017The original version of this article stated incorrectly that O’Connell said he regretted his words. He said he regretted that the situation “happened.”It also said Gates revealed he had retained counsel for himself in response to the matter. He later said he has not.

Mayor Barbara Delgleize, Councilwoman Lyn Semeta and Councilman Erik Peterson had requested an official reprimand seeking O’Connell’s public apology for his remarks at the Oct. 16 council meeting, which the trio considered a violation of California’s open-meetings law.

At that meeting, O’Connell mentioned that he had received a memo containing allegations from a Police Department manager. He asked that Delgleize and an independent investigator look into the matter. He did not elaborate about the allegations, and on Tuesday he declined to go into detail about them.

However, O’Connell said at the October meeting that he felt the case could compromise the city manager’s office, city attorney’s office and police or give “the appearance of being compromised.”

After the meeting, Delgleize, Semeta and Peterson wrote in a staff report that City Hall receives such complaints “all the time” but that they are “not subject to public disclosure” while a review occurs.

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.”

On Monday, City Attorney Michael Gates noted that under the state’s Brown Act, the council is not permitted to discuss items not on the meeting agenda (the matter O’Connell referred to was not).

Delgleize told O’Connell, “I felt like you were doing it on purpose to throw people under the bus rather than doing it the correct way or the way we have rules and regulations.”

O’Connell said he didn’t mention anyone by name and didn’t “throw anyone under the bus.”

Gates urged confidentiality, saying last month’s meeting was “not the proper forum to announce a complaint or investigation.”

O’Connell said he regretted the situation “happened” and that “moving forward, if it needs to be done differently, I have no issues with that.”

That seemed to appease Peterson.

“We want you to follow the rules like the rest of us. … It seems like you’re willing to do that,” Peterson said.

Some members of the public came to O’Connell’s defense.

Ken Stanford, a Huntington Beach resident for 30 years, contended that nothing about O’Connell’s statements was “objectionable.”

“I challenge anyone to cite even one” disparaging comment O’Connell made, Stanford said.

Supporter Rich Gomez said he thinks the public deserves to know about the allegations.

Being honest and direct is “what I expect from a council member or a politician,” Gomez said.

On Tuesday, O’Connell said he “will continue to seek the truth” about the internal matter.

“We’ve got some serious issues in the city that we need to take a look at,” O’Connell said.

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @BradleyZint


UPDATES:

4:45 p.m.: This article was updated with O’Connell’s comments Tuesday.

This article was originally published at 1:15 p.m.


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