Mask Disagreement Stops Huntington Beach Council From Resuming In-Person Meetings

March 31, 2021 Updated: March 31, 2021

Huntington Beach City Council will continue to meet virtually rather than convening in chambers due to Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz’s refusal to wear a mask.

It moved to do so during a March 29 meeting, where the five councilmembers in attendance voted to stick with Zoom meetings.

Ortiz was absent during the vote, after leaving the meeting to attend another commitment. Councilman Erik Peterson, who has also refused to wear masks in past meetings, was absent.

Ortiz defended his position on masks during the meeting.

“As a right, as an American, as the freedoms that I have, I have my choice of taking care of my health,” Ortiz said. “And I will choose to continue to do that.”

The city council has held virtual meetings since January, shortly after Ortiz was asked to leave a council meeting for refusing to wear a mask.

During the latest meeting, councilmembers pleaded with Ortiz to wear a mask so that they could return to the dais in person. The consideration came as Orange County continues to reduce its number of COVID-19 cases.

Councilmember Mike Posey said he was eager to return to in-person meetings, but not at the expense of good leadership.

“None of us likes wearing a mask,” Posey told the council. “But over time, I became conscious and aware that I wasn’t doing it to protect me. I was doing it out of mutual respect for the patrons around me [and] the employees that I engaged with.”

Ortiz said he has not worn a mask since last April, and never caught coronavirus due to healthy eating and exercise.

“People have their own views on what they believe in,” Ortiz said. “That’s their choice. This is our choice. As Americans, we need to have our own choice for ourselves. And it’s not being selfish and thinking it’s all about me. No, it’s not about me. It’s about the ones who can’t come out and speak up.”

Mayor Kim Carr said that being a councilmember is a profession like any other, and most jobs require wearing a mask.

“This is a job, you are paid by the government. We are hired by the residents, but this is a job,” she said. “And so to all the people who are working at Target, Walmart, Albertsons and Chick-Fil-A and everywhere that we go, and everybody’s wearing a mask, right on, you’re doing your job, and that’s what you’re supposed to do.

“And if you don’t want to do it, you can go work somewhere else.”

If the council does decide at some point to hold in-person meetings, state guidelines would permit a maximum of 50 public members to attend if still in the orange tier, according to City Manager Oliver Chi.

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