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New Mayor Tries to Smooth Over Rift

In her first action as head of the City Council, Patty Campbell ends dispute with former city treasurer.


Moments after Councilwoman Patty Campbell was appointed mayor by council members Tuesday evening, she took a subtle step toward improving City Council public relations.

Although it was not on the agenda of a meeting primarily focused on swearing in new officers, Campbell asked newly appointed Mayor Pro Tem Shawn Boyd to sign a letter of recommendation for a former city employee. A city-endorsed recommendation was requested by Elizabeth Stoddard, the city treasurer who was fired in September, as part of an out-of-court settlement with the city March 13. Stoddard filed a wrongful-termination suit against the city and settled the dispute for $129,000 along with the letter of recommendation. With the threat of another lawsuit by Stoddard for missing a deadline on receiving the recommendation, Campbell moved quickly to abide by the settlement.

Campbell, who replaced Paul Yost as mayor, later said she regretted making the move publicly and that she wanted to stress moving past divisive city issues.

"There's a lot of healing to do in this city," Campbell said. "I would like to see the council be more positive and upbeat."

An even more polarizing issue in the seaside community was the proposed shopping center on the Bixby Ranch Co. property off Seal Beach Boulevard and Lampson Avenue.

Campbell's district, which consists of College Park East, was the only district with a majority in favor of a March ballot measure that would have halted the Old Ranch Towne Center. With the failure of the measure and construction of the center moving forward, Campbell, 58, said the battle was another issue that should be put to rest.

"The people in College Park East are very resilient," Campbell said. "We can't change those projects that were approved. We just need to make sure construction of these projects is as least obtrusive to the residents as possible."

Another action taken by Campbell shortly after becoming mayor was to ask City Manager Keith Till to give her financial and Redevelopment Agency documents filed with the state controller's office. She said she would like to review the documents that were requested by the council "quite some time ago."

Campbell said she is looking forward to leading a slightly rearranged City Council, which includes one new member, John Larson, who represents District 2. That district consists of a portion of Leisure World and the College Park West neighborhood.

"I've worked with some very good councils in the past, and I think this one will be too," she said.

Alex Murashko can be reached at (714) 966-5974

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