The Huntington Beach City Council will have a new look at its next meeting Tuesday after attorney Rhonda Bolton was appointed to fill the seat vacated when former MMA fighter Tito Ortiz resigned nearly two months ago.
The council named Bolton to the position at a contentious special meeting Monday night, avoiding the need for a costly special election in November.
Bolton, who served on the city's Human Relations Task Force, is the first Black woman to serve on the council. She will finish the four-year term of Ortiz, which expires in 2024.
Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Delgleize changed her vote to Bolton at Monday's meeting, joining Mayor Kim Carr, Councilman Dan Kalmick and Councilwoman Natalie Moser. Two dissenting votes were cast by Councilmen Erik Peterson and Mike Posey.
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Many audience members at Monday's meeting supported Gracey Van Der Mark, who finished fourth in last November's election with 8% of the vote, and whose politics are far more conservative than Bolton's.
Nearly 200 city residents had applied for the post, and 105 were interviewed by the council.
"We congratulate Council Member Bolton and look forward to her tenure as our newest elected representative. The city also wishes to thank the other 189 residents who applied for the vacancy and participated in an extensive application process that began in early June 2021. We thank them for their passion and interest in serving our OneHB community," the city said in a statement on its website.
Ortiz resigned from the seven-member council on June 1, citing unspecified threats to his children.
"I ran for this position with hopes to better my community, work on my constituents and give them a voice making our beautiful city safe and clean and to ensure a bright future for my children," Ortiz said in an approximately two-minute speech at the start of the first in-person council meeting of the year.
"I was under the notion I was in a bipartisan position and that we all had the common goal that our city and our constituents could have. To put it frankly, that's not the case.
"From day one, I was sworn in and was met with hostility and judgment. ... I thought (I) was up to this job. I knew I had over 40,000 constituents who were counting on me. As of recent the attacks against me have moved to involve my family. I now feel their safety is in danger. To put it simply, this job isn't working for me."
The former UFC light heavyweight champion topped a field of 15 candidates in the November election in the race for three seats.
Ortiz had drawn criticism over his refusal to wear a mask at city events and his opposition to vaccinations.
In February, Ortiz filed an unemployment claim against the city with the California Employment Development Department, although he continued to earn his stipend and expense allowance as a council member. The unemployment filing became public in April.
Ortiz has denied that his unemployment claim was improper, saying the allegations were politically motivated.