Councilmembers Sue Himmelrich and Kristin McCowan retained their positions as Mayor and Mayor Pro Tempore in a vote Tuesday that occurred as a result of alleged Brown Act violations.

Himmelrich and McCowan were reelected to their respective positions for two years in two separate unanimous votes, but not before Counncilmember Oscar de la Torre attempted to persuade the two to split the terms with one of Council’s newest elected representatives.

“The Latino community has waited for 300 years for us to get the first Latino mayor ever, and that Mayor only served one year… he had to share that year. And I’m thinking how many white women have served as mayor in the City of Santa Monica; I think there’s quite a few, but we only had one Latino or Latina in the city’s history,” de la Torre said after Councilmember McKeown nominated Himmelrich and McCowan. “I’m just thinking that it would be a good gesture for us to meet the moment here in the City of Santa Monica around the issues of inclusivity, diversity and racial justice, which a lot of callers are advocating for.”

Citing concerns relating to her job and the need for steady leadership in the wake of the pandemic, Himmelrich said she wasn’t interested in a nomination that would ask her to serve less than two years.

De la Torre would eventually support Himmelrich in the ensuing mayoral vote, but the subject of splitting a term with Brock or Parra was broached again during the vote for Mayor Pro Tem.

“I want to ask Councilwoman McCowan to reflect on the importance of us sharing power for the sake of unifying our city, and I’d like to move that we have Councilwoman McCowan start the position of Mayor Pro Tem,” before Phil Brock would assume the position of Mayor Pro Tem, de la Torre said just prior to McCowan asking to read a statement she prepared for the night.

McCowan said she still believes she cured herself of the alleged Brown Act violations as was stated in Interim City Attorney George Cardona’s letter.

The bigger problem over the last month, McCowan said, was the severe personal attacks she has experienced from some in this community.

“I want to be clear, I have earned my right to be on this council and I am not going to let anyone diminish that,” McCowan added. “I say all this so that everyone on this council understands that my ethics have never and will never be compromised. This is the standard for which we all should strive, and I will not allow a few loud voices who know nothing of me or my history to suggest that I am an ethically compromised individual. I take that very personally and I will not stand for misguided accusations. We all make mistakes. A real leader admits them and takes responsibility.”

McCowan also dispelled rumors that her decision to accept a nomination for a two-year term has anything to do with future political prospects.

“We are in a terrible crisis of COVID right now. It will take at least another year before we start to see some semblance of normal in our community and another year after that, very strategically focused on the future of our city,” McCowan said. “And after that, (de la Torre), Councilmember Brock and Councilmember Parra will all still be on council in a wonderful position to take over the positions of Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem at that time, and I would be happy to support any qualified candidates if I’m reelected in 2022. But for right now, this is a two year job, just like Sue said, and I wish to support her in that role for the next two years.”

Brock withdrew his name from contention and both women were reappointed to the positions with a unanimous vote.

Brennon@smdp.com