The new mayor pro tem had held his position for just 21 days when, in a surprise move Monday night, he announced he would give the title to another council member.
Councilman Richard Murphy stepped down as Los Alamitos Mayor Pro Tem – a ceremonial position he accepted Dec. 17 -- and nominated two-term Councilwoman Gerri Graham Mejia to take his place.
The unusual gesture in deference to Graham Mejia rectified a slight against her when the council bypassed her for mayor or mayor pro tem in December.
In Los Alamitos, as in most California cities, council members historically rotate in and out of the positions in order. But Graham Mejia, who has spent the last few years in the minority on the sharply divided council, has been passed over for the position.
Murphy will continue serving as councilman. The City Council voted 5-0 to approve Graham-Mejia’s new title.
Murphy, a new councilman who took also office Dec. 17, said he had been under the impression that Mejia hadn’t wanted the position when he accepted the original nomination. However, after hearing her statements at the last meeting. Murphy said he spent some time in thought and decided to relinquish the title and nominate her.
“This is really just to correct that mistake,” Murphy said, and added that Graham-Mejia had been elected twice and that the people have made it clear they chose her.
"You know, the people have spoken," Murphy said. "I think she definitely deserves a chance."
Graham-Mejia said the nomination meant a lot to her.
“It’s very exciting,” Mejia said. “You know, this is my hometown.”
She said because of the council's rotation, there’s a big chance she’ll become mayor next year.
“This hometown girl gets to be the mayor,” she added.
Both Graham-Mejia and Murphy said that they had not talked about the decision before Murphy selected her.
Los Alamitos resident JM Ivler, who attended the meeting, said he thought the original misunderstanding proved that the two council members weren’t talking about it behind the scenes -- otherwise there never would have been a misunderstanding in the first place.
“I don’t believe it was controversial,” Ivler said of the latest decision. “It was Mr. Murphy being very gallant.”
--City staff announced that they would move a discussion on staff salary until the next meeting.
The City Attorney said that because of 2012 Brown Act regulations discussions of salary could not take place during special meetings.
Officials were scheduled to vote on a new agreement with a handful of staffers that would have called for non-represented employees to pay 8 percent of their retirement benefit costs but also gives them a 9 percent bump in pay.
-- The council also voted to ask staff to bring back a proposed timeline for how they would fill the position of the exiting-city attorney.
The next official city council meeting takes place at Jan. 22 at 6 p.m.