For the first time in a quarter century the Long Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to censure one of its members as eight of the nine-member council put their votes behind a formal reprimand of Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce.
The vote came with no comment from either Mayor Robert Garcia or the council on why it voted to censure Pearce. A last-minute addition to the agenda on Friday laid out what the sponsors of the item—Council members Al Austin, Suzie Price, Dee Andrews and Daryl Supernaw—describe as conduct unbecoming of a member of the council, including potential sexual harassment and violating the city’s code of ethics.
A censure is an element of Robert’s Rules of Order and is largely symbolic and serves as a public record of her colleagues’ disapproval of her conduct. Pearce will still be allowed to serve as a council member and in fact went on to vote on the rest of the agenda after the censure vote. It’s the first time a member of the council had been disciplined in this fashion since Douglas Drummond was censured in 1993 for making prejudicial remarks about gays and lesbians.
Pearce’s censure was preceded by an improper relationship with a subordinate and investigations into driving under the influence and domestic violence—no charges were filed—and an ongoing investigation into potential conflicts of interests stemming from their relationship.
Before hearing from the public, Pearce read a prepared statement where she was contrite but also called on her colleagues to support her going forward in trying to strengthen the city’s human resources policies in an effort to better protect city employees and make them more aware of their rights.
“I want to apologize to the City of Long Beach, my colleagues on the council and most importantly to the constituents in the Second District,” Pearce said. “I’m sorry my actions, 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.”
The relatively small group that gathered inside the council chamber to speak on the matter broke about evenly with half of those present being part of the recall effort that is currently having its signatures tabulated by the city clerk’s office, and the other half allied with Pearce.
Those for and against the council’s intent to censure Pearce distanced themselves from being linked to special interests groups with those in favor making their claims as frustrated residents and her supporters coming out as friends and advocates of issues she’s championed.
“This has always been and always will be about your actions,” said downtown resident Jonathan Crouch, one of the earliest organizers in the recall effort. “Your actions are what led to this censure vote brought forward by the courageous members of the council. Your actions are what led to the nearly 9,500 local residents signing the recall petition. And come November when the residents of the Second District vote, it will be because of your actions that you’ll be removed from office. Time’s up, Jeannine.”
Those supporting Pearce said that those pushing for her recall, and even the vote to censure her, were part of a larger political calculus to oust the councilwoman who has taken progressive stances on items since being elected in 2016.
Some pointed to the fact that the same four members supporting the censure vote also voted against an effort last year—Claudia’s law—to protect hotel workers from abuse and alleging that this move to censure Pearce was one more action on behalf of the hotel industry.
“Regardless of whatever sort of message you want to send to Mrs. Pearce, the larger message to your community is “not MeToo, but screw you,’” said Anna Christensen. “‘Screw women, screw women and hotel workers and big industry gets its way.”
Pearce has maintained that the recall campaign, which turned in its signatures before its deadline last week to qualify for the November ballot, is backed by big money interests from the hotel sector that are intent on forcing her out of office due to her advocacy for strengthening hotel workers’ rights.
A political action committee supporting the recall effort has raised over $200,000 which includes about $70,000 from the Long Beach Marriott and another $100,000 from limited liability companies linked to other city hotels. The same day that the council voted to censure Pearce petition gatherers turned in their own collection of signatures to the clerk’s office in an attempt to get Claudia’s Law on the November ballot.