Pearce reads written statement: apologizes, accepts responsibility for her actions and "accepts censure as a call to do better."
Public testimony sharply split between Recall/Resign proponents and "We Stand With Jeannine" supporters
Apart From Pearce, no Councilmembers speak on agenda item
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(May 23, 2018, 5:57 a.m.) -- As seen LIVE. the Long Beach City Council voted at its May 22 meeting to censure Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce for [agendized text] "her conduct as a member of the City Council that has reflected poorly on the City of Long Beach and raises questions of potential sexual harassment." The vote was 8-0 with Pearce not voting but stating that she "accepts centure as a call to do better." Apart from the motion (by Austin) and second (by Price), Councilmembers apart from Pearce said nothing during the agenda item.
Garcia moved the item (#19) to come up early in the meeting and after the Clerk read the title, Mayor Garcia swiftly gave the floor to Councilman Pearce, who read a written statement (full text below):
[Scroll down for further.]
Councilwoman Pearce: I know that this is a difficult night for many, but I want you to know that I understand why we are here.
I know many believe the actions and decisions I have made reflect poorly on our city and on our City Council. I want to begin by apologizing.
I apologize to the City of Long Beach, to my colleagues on the City Council, and most importantly the constituents of the Second District.
I am sorry that my actions, of which I deeply regret, have taken attention away from the important work of the city, and of the dedicated team of people who work here.
I take full responsibility for my actions.
These last two years have been some of the most difficult in my adult and professional life.
Through this difficult time, I have undergone tremendous growth, and I believe that I am a stronger and better person today due to these experiences.
For me, part of taking responsibility means self-reflection and taking actions to understand why I made the decisions I did and why I found myself part of the chaos that has characterized my time in office.
My traumatic childhood laid the foundation for me to fall prey to narcissistic abuse. At many times I felt trapped. I know today that I am a survivor.
I don't say this to excuse my behavior, but to acknowledge that I am learning and growing. That I know now how better to recognize the pitfalls that led me into an abusive relationship where I put the public's trust and, frankly, my life on the line.
I want to thank my support system for helping get through the toughest parts of this past year.
Through this difficult time, I want my constituents know that I, and my office, have never stopped serving you. I am proud of the 2nd Districts accomplishments, of which there are many, but moving forward, I am committed to regaining the trust and support of my colleagues and constituents that I am proud to represent.
I love our city. I love my home--the Second District. And I am so thankful for the strong support I have received from so many.
Holding public office is a great and tremendous honor. I will continue to do better.
At the same time, I believe our city can do better.
I plan to continue governing in a way that moves our city forward. In the coming weeks, I will be asking for my council colleagues to support me in the following:
Requesting that the City Auditor conduct a Full Audit of HR Practices and return with policy recommendations to ensure all staff in the city have the information and training they need.
I'd like to see something similar to the City of LA's My Voice website for City employees to learn their rights around and responsibilities around discrimination and harassment and where they can file a complaint online.
A review of HR protocols for the legislative department specifically instituting a robust orientation and onboarding and annual Ethics training for ALL legislative staff regardless of position.
Establishing an Ethics Commission with community oversight. Many cities have ethics commissions and Long Beach has never had one.
Recommending that the city match The California Endowment's $150,000 investment to support the city fully becoming a Trauma Informed City. We know we all experience Trauma in some form or another and that how organizations and systems interact with those people can perpetuate the impacts of the trauma. From City employees who have their own trauma to constituents that call council offices and ask for support, When We become a Trauma Informed City, we will strengthen the fabric of our community even at the darkest moments.
I accept and acknowledge this censure as a call to do better. My hope is that once the vote is done tonight, we can move on and move forward. We can put politics behind us and focus
I ask that my supporters in the audience keep things civil. I know this feels very personal to you and the issues you care about. Tonight, I ask that you stand with me in accepting this censure while committing to the real work that lies ahead for us.
When Pearce concluded her statement, no Councilmembers spoke. Mayor Garcia invited public testimony, which was sharply polarized.
A number of speakers wearing "Recall" T-shirts praised the censure motion and some urged Pearce to resign. Many Pearce supporters carried signs saying "We Stand with Jeannine," called the censure motion unfair and charged it was really about politics...but some also expressed disappointment and displeasure with her actions.
When public testimony ended, Councilmembers again said nothing. Mayor Garcia swiftly called for the Council vote, which was 8-0 with Pearce not voting. (Garcia let Pearce violate a Council rule in not voting. Municipal Code section 2.03.050 specifies: "Except when a conflict of interest exists and abstention is required by State law, every member of the Council who is present when a roll is called shall vote for or against the question, unless excused by a majority of the members present, prior to the calling of the roll on such question"), however Pearce publicly recited in her statement that she accepted the censure.)
The Council item was agendized by Austin-Price-Supernaw-Andrews less than two weeks after proponents of a recall of Councilwoman Pearce submitted 9,462 recall-petition (with 6,363 valid needed to trigger a recall election). In their agenda item, the agendizing Councilmembers wrote:
Information that has been publicly released resulting from a Long Beach Police Department investigation regarding Councilmember Jeannine Pearce raises serious concerns about her actions as a Councilmember.
The investigation stems from an incident on June 3, 2017 involving Councilmember Pearce and her former Chief of Staff, Devin Cotter.
Members of the City Council refrained from commenting on the matter while the criminal investigation was ongoing into allegations of domestic battery and driving under the influence against Councilmember Pearce.
While that portion of the investigation has concluded with no criminal charges being brought against Councilmember Pearce, the information that has been revealed raises questions of potential sexual harassment, conflict of interest and failure to adhere to the City's Code of Ethics.
According to Long Beach Police Department reports that were made public, both Councilmember Pearce and her former chief of staff made statements to the police that they had been dating for approximately 3 years, and some of the statements indicate that the relationship continued up until about three months prior to the June 3 incident.
Councilmember Pearce hired Mr. Cotter as her chief of staff in July 2016, which indicates that she hired him at the time that she was in an admitted dating relationship, and that dating relationship between a supervisor (Councilmember Pearce) and subordinate employee (Mr.
Cotter) continued throughout the duration of his employment.
The City of Long Beach's policy on unlawful harassment complaints defines sexual harassment in part (Policy 2.2, II, B), as follows:
"...When an employment decision ... is based on whether an employee ... submitted or refused
to submit to some form of sexual conduct, is considered sexual harassment.
"The following are three criteria, which shall be utilized as guidelines for determining whether or not certain conduct constitutes unlawful sexual harassment:
Submission to the conduct is made either as an explicit or implicit condition of employment; or,
Submission to or rejection of such conduct is the basis for employment decisions affecting an
individual, such as, continued employment or decisions affecting pay, benefits, and/or
advancement opportunities, or other terms and conditions of employment; or
Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment."
The action by Councilmember Pearce to hire an employee with whom she was in an active relationship with, exposed the City to significant risk for potential sexual harassment and conflict of interest.
According to press reports, the City Attorney's office had to negotiate an agreement with Mr. Cotter for his termination of employment in December 2016, which included paid leave.
According to the Police Department, an investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Public Integrity Division is ongoing regarding "alleged inappropriate behavior and conflicts of interest."
In addition, the actions by Councilmember Pearce on June 3, 2017, in which she identified herself as a Councilmember, put the integrity of the Long Beach Police Department at risk, after several public allegations of preferential treatment were made.
In response, the Police Department conducted an Internal Affairs investigation which required more than 300 hours of work, including interviews and a review of documents, reports, computer data, recordings and other relevant data. The investigation concluded that the
allegations of misconduct against the Long Beach Police Department were unfounded.
While that portion of the investigation has concluded with no criminal charges being brought against Councilmember Pearce, the information that has been revealed raises questions of her veracity, potential sexual harassment, conflict of interest and failure to adhere to the City's Code of Ethics.
Most recently, the California Attorney General has been asked to review the inappropriate use of public resources by Councilmember Pearce's office for political campaign business that was sent from a City email on April 30, 2018.
The Long Beach Municipal Code requires all Councilmembers, City employees, officers and commissioners to agree to a Code of Ethics. This Code of Ethics includes a pledge to "make every effort to avoid a conflict of interest" and "to exercise prudence and good judgment at all times."
Given the information that has been made publicly available to this City Council, the actions by Councilmember Pearce did not adhere to the City's Code of Ethics.
Censure is a disciplinary procedure under Robert's Rules of Order, naming a particular member of the legislative body as an offender. The Long Beach Municipal Code states that the rules of parliamentary practice contained in "Robert's Rules of Order" shall govern the
Council where applicable and not otherwise inconsistent with any provision of this Code.
The last time the Long Beach City Council censured a colleague was in 1993, when the Council voted unanimously to censure a councilmember for "highly inflammatory and prejudicial" statements he made in a public forum.
This is not a tool that should be used recklessly, and it is not a step that we take lightly in invoking it now.
We request that the City Council vote to censure Councilmember Jeannine Pearce for her conduct as a member of the City Council that has reflected poorly on the City of Long Beach and raises questions of potential sexual harassment, conflict of interest and failure to adhere
to the City's Code of Ethics.
FISCAL IMPACT: There is no fiscal impact with this recommendation.