Behind Scenes of Council President Vote: How Incumbent Todd Gloria Was Ousted

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s controversial election of a new San Diego City Council president, more details have emerged about the process of how that change of command came about.

After NBC 7 first reported rumblings of a move to replace Council President Todd Gloria two weeks ago, his vice president Sherri Lightner did not comment on her thoughts about the key job that Gloria had held for two years.

On Wednesday, Gloria offered his thoughts on Lighter, who’s represented San Diego’s 1st City Council district since 2008, having replaced him.

"This is politics, and so you can't take it personally,” Gloria said. “And I won’t act out personally where this is concerned. I'm just going to do my level best to continue the initiatives that I've been pushing."

Some of the initiatives Gloria has been pushing may have struck the four Republicans on the nine-member Council as too bent on "social engineering" instead of the "nuts and bolts" of municipal operations.

Lightner and two other Democrats joined them in a 7-2 vote ousting Gloria, who got support from fellow Democrat David Alvarez in opposing Lightner’s selection.

As for the move being "politics"?

"Last time, I voted for Todd Gloria and I was praised for being nonpartisan,” Republican Councilman Scott Sherman said before Wednesday’s balloting. “Am I going to be partisan if I vote for a different Democrat this time?"

NBC 7 has learned from council aides with direct knowledge of the pre-election process that there was a series of private, one-on-one meetings that involved a total of six council members including Gloria and Lightner.

It appears no official "quorum" of five was ever reached – which would constitute a violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state's open meetings law.

They recounted separate meetings involving Marti Emerald and Gloria, Emerald and Lightner, Sherman and Lightner, Lori Zapf and Lightner, and David Alvarez and Lightner.

According to one aide, Lighter told Gloria last week that she was “going for it."

Because the meetings appear to have involved discussions that would fall under the “Serial Meetings” section of the Brown Act, our findings were forwarded to the city attorney's office for review.

A key paragraph to consider in the law: “It must be determined whether the communications were used to develop a concurrence as to the action to be taken. If the serial communications were not used to develop a concurrence as to action to be taken, the serial communications do not constitute a meeting and the (Brown) Act is not applicable.”

Council aides told us there were no impermissible communications in those discussions.

Lightner, meantime, declined to speak with reporters Wednesday, but has scheduled media interviews for Friday.

"She needs to be able to explain why she's going to do what she's going to do,” said Scott Lewis, editor in chief of Voice of San Diego. “ And why she wanted to do this in particular -- to somebody that even she and everybody else agrees was doing a fine job."

Said Gloria: "The nuts and bolts, the gears of this city have been running incredibly smoothly, which is why it's disconcerting that we would try to make a change when things are finally hitting stride and we're doing well."

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