Editor’s note: This corrects Wendy Leece’s former title and who gave her a nomination and who seconded the motion.
COSTA MESA — Councilman Gary Monahan was named mayor after the swearing-in of the two new City Council members Tuesday night.
On a 3-2 vote, the appointment passed up Mayor Pro Tem Wendy Leece, who Councilwoman Katrina Foley had nominated. Leece seconded the motion.
Councilman Jim Righeimer was chosen, 3 to 2, to serve as mayor pro tem, a decision that drew boos from some in the audience.
After hearing public requests to select Leece, the three councilmen — Monahan, Righeimer and Eric Bever — voted for Monahan, then voted for Righeimer for mayor pro tem.
“The council just nominated a public master instead of a public servant,” Marcia Lynne said during public comments.
Lynne said she believes Monahan will be serving under Righeimer’s command.
“Let’s face it: Righeimer is the real boss here,” she said. " I’m very disappointed with the GOP and very disappointed in the people of Costa Mesa who brought this about.”
Once Monahan was named mayor, Foley asked that Leece be allowed to retain her position as mayor pro tem. But Bever picked Righeimer, and Monahan seconded Bever’s motion.
“It’s very odd that the gentlemen agreed on everything,” Leece said, suggesting that perhaps their decision was discussed beforehand, which would violate the state’s open-meetings laws.
Several residents, including former Mayor Sandy Genis, cited Leece’s hard work, honesty and integrity as the foundation of her service to the community and why she should be selected as mayor.
Before voting for Monahan, Righeimer said the decision to select the mayor should not be based solely on one’s honesty and integrity, because Monahan and Leece have both qualities.
Righeimer added that the position is about more than cutting ribbons and showing up at community events.
Foley said that no council member, including the mayor, has more power than another. She added that the position of mayor should be rotated.
“Jim, you just got here. Lighten up a little,” said resident Lisa Reedy. “I can’t understand how you think that by just being seated you deserve being mayor pro tem of the city. You have to pay your dues.”
Righeimer’s selection drew boos, sighs and shouting of “shame” from some in the audience.
“The public was just heard,” said Amy Leece, the councilwoman’s daughter. “Every person that came up was in support of Wendy Leece, and the three councilmen voted against what the public suggested.
“You completely ignored everything that was said,” she continued. “With all due respect, I’m very nervous about the future of this city due to the fact that the public was completely ignored.”
Dan Goldmann, a resident, called the City Council a “country club council” that makes decisions behind closed doors.
“You people have to learn to appreciate public input. You have to collectively listen,” Reedy said. “We deserve proper representation. Do not make decisions before you come to these meetings.”