Fifteen minutes before the Wednesday, June 3, meeting of the Imperial Beach City Council was set to start, a dozen residents, a few reporters, and a television news crew congregated outside council chambers.
The residents were there to protest last week’s city council decision to appoint former mayor and councilmember Diane Rose to the vacant council seat left by councilmember Fred McLean, who passed away from cancer late last month.
At issue, say the protesters, is the lack of community outreach that went with Rose’s appointment. On May 27, at a special meeting, the four councilmembers agreed to appoint Rose. The day before, city staff had sent an announcement to the local paper, soliciting applicants for the open council seat.
Albert Knecht read the announcement and went to city hall to file the necessary paperwork. Once there, city staff informed him that the position had been filled.
“They stripped me of my right to vote,” said Knecht outside council chambers minutes before the meeting to swear Rose in began. Knecht accused the council of “backroom dealing” and failing to follow a clear procedure to fill the seat.
While Knecht and the other residents grumbled about the process, Rose, wearing a black business suit and carrying a small black attaché case, walked toward the crowd. A resident asked her a few questions along the way.
“There was no public process and I am asking that you consider rescinding your appointment.”
“No, I will not,” answered Rose calmly. “I volunteered based on my 14 years of service [on the council] and the council accepted.”
A few minutes later, the 50 or so people took their seats inside council chambers.
Once started, more than a dozen people spoke in opposition to the appointment, objecting mostly to the process.
“You took away one of my basic rights,” said one resident during public comment.
“I would like you to do not what’s cheapest, not what’s easiest and least time-consuming, but what’s best for democracy,” said Serge Dedina, executive director of the non-profit environmental group Wildcoast, while speaking to the council.
After public comment was heard, city attorney James Lough gave reasons why the quick appointment of Rose was better than a long, expensive interview process.
“Poway took four meetings and did a bunch of interviews and nearly ran into a problem running up against the 30-day deadline,” said Lough. The city attorney said holding a special election would cost taxpayers more than $125,000.
Minutes later, councilmembers Patricia McCoy and Lorie Bragg and mayor Jim Janney voted in favor of the ordinance to appoint Diane Rose. First-term councilmember Jim King abstained from the vote. Before the city clerk administered the oath of office to Rose, the former councilmember spoke:
“Well, no good deed goes unpunished…”