The Bell Gardens City Council unseated Mayor Josefina (Josie) Macias on Wednesday night, replacing her with the councilman whom she had physically attacked during a highly charged closed meeting earlier this week.
In stark contrast to Monday's rough-and-tumble session, the council members quietly voted to appoint Councilman Frank B. Duran as mayor, then swiftly adjourned the meeting. Duran had been mayor pro tem.
Other than to cast their votes, the five council members said nothing during the meeting and quickly left the meeting hall. The action left residents--who had come expecting more fireworks--staring unbelievingly at each other and asking if the meeting was really over.
Macias, who said she had come to blows with Duran because of his sexist and macho attitude toward women, voted along with Councilman George T. Deitch against appointing Duran as mayor. The mayoral role is largely ceremonial and is rotated among the council members annually.
After Duran was named, Deitch was appointed mayor pro tem.
City officials, including Macias, said that council restructuring had been in the works for some time and that Monday night's fracas had not been a factor in the mayoral change.
"I'm actually happy, because all the responsibility will be off my shoulders," Macias said before the meeting. She was supposed to have held the mayor's seat until April.
After the meeting, several residents talked optimistically about the change.
"I hope now we can get on with what needs to happen in this community," said Marie Chacon, who had been campaign manager for Macias, Duran, Deitch and Rodolfo (Rudy) Garcia when they ran for office together last year. "We have wasted too much time with all these internal problems."
Garcia apologized earlier Wednesday for a remark he had made about Jews during the closed session this week. Garcia said he received several phone calls from Jewish groups offended by published reports quoting him as saying he "would never have hired a Jew" for the job of city attorney.
"I am not anti-Semitic," Garcia said. "What I meant was that I would rather have hired a Latino for the job because the majority of (Bell Gardens) is Latino."
Last April, Macias, Duran, Deitch and Garcia--none of whom had run for political office before--uprooted an Anglo majority that had ruled City Hall for decades.
After the successful recall of four council members, the coalition was elected by a landslide, creating the first Latino council majority in this overwhelmingly Latino community.
In recent months, however, allegations of illegal hiring practices, racism and conflicts of interest within City Hall have led to increased divisiveness among council members.