HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Before Huntington Beach City Council member Mike Posey called for a review of the rules that led to the appointment of new member Rhonda Bolton, the crowd in attendance rippled with emotion. 

Public comments lasted nearly 1 hour 40 minutes Tuesday as Huntington Beach residents took turns admonishing —  or praising — the city council’s appointment of Rhonda Bolton. 

What You Need To Know

  • Tito Ortiz resigned from the city council and forced the remaining members to look for a replacement

  • He had three years left on his term

  • Some vocal residents were angry that the council took on a new member without running a special election

  • The council members agreed to examine the city charter

Some residents were pleased by the selection, lauding Bolton’s credentials as a lawyer and her work as a member of the city Human Relations Taskforce.

However, many others took to the microphone to angrily condemn the choice, and more than one speaker called the decision a middle finger to city residents.

City Council members, like Dan Kalmick, have repeatedly said the members acted in accordance with the city charter. He has called the dissenting voices a “small minority.”

Bolton’s appointment fills a vacancy left by Tito Ortiz, who resigned after a string of controversial social media posts. He was elected in November and received 37,000 votes, the most in city history, in the same election that brought Kalmick and Natalie Moser to the City Council.

Ortiz’s resignation forced the City Council to undergo an exhaustive search to find a replacement to finish the remaining three years of the term. Some vocal residents have said the seat should have gone to runner up Gracey Van Der Mark instead of Bolton, who did not run in the election.

The City Council, who reviewed roughly 190 applications, made its selection just before a special election would have been triggered that could have cost the city about $1 million.

The anger of the appointment spilled over into the City Council meeting and prompted Posey to introduce a motion to have the charter reviewed. 

That review would likely come in the form of a panel of Huntington Beach citizens who would then take inventory of the charter and assess what may be in need of updating. The members noted that the charter is generally reviewed every 10 years and is about two years overdue. That review would include an examination of the appointment procedures for City Council members should a sitting, elected member exit before the term is out.

“The residents, this is their decision,” Kalmick said.

The City Council’s newest member, a policy wonk who worked on the landmark American Care Act, agreed.

“It’s just a matter of good governance to review a charter on a regular basis,” Bolton said.

The motion was passed 6-0-1 with Council member Erik Peterson absent.