Watch CBS News

Stalemate over; Amourence Lee finally selected as San Mateo's new mayor

Supporters of Amourence Lee rally before historic San Mateo mayoral vote
Supporters of Amourence Lee rally before historic San Mateo mayoral vote 04:56

SAN MATEO --  After a drama-filled week and hours of debate, the San Mateo City Council finally appointed councilmember Amourence Lee as the community's new mayor late Monday night.

The vote was historic as well -- Lee now becomes the city's first female Asian American mayor.

But for days, the position remained vacant as the five-member council was tied up in contentious debate. At issue was the timing of the appointment of a fifth member to replace Lee.

After discussions about potential council candidates, Lee said that the process had been tainted. She claimed that there had been back-channeling and vote trading. 

Lee said she voted to abstain because she was approached by two people who asked her to trade her council vote for Cliff Robbins, in exchange for a vote for mayor. She did not know if Robbins was involved. During Monday night's session, Robbins claimed he was not.

Councilmember Lisa Diaz Nash questioned Lee's motives and asked for proof of the allegations. Lee said that the matter had been turned over to the city attorney. 

In the end, Rich Hedges was voted in as the fifth member of the council. Lee had supported his appointment. Diaz Nash was named Deputy Mayor.

"Looking across our City Hall, there is more love in this community than there are ideas that divide us and we're all committed to building that community that we want to be a part of," Lee said during the meeting. "It is a profound privilege to serve and we are so fortunate to be part of this team."    

At the start of Monday's city council meeting, a rally called for the council to appoint a mayor.  Many carried signs in support of councilmember Lee. 

Some read - "But first, a mayor!" and "I love Lee." 

Historically the appointment has been more of a formality. It is based on the city's current system of rotation.  The council guidelines point to seniority as the most important qualification for the role. 

Lee has the most prior experience.

"San Mateo has a pretty simple, almost ceremonial process, to elect a mayor," said rally organizer Lauren Fitzgerald.  "We do it every year. It's a 128-year precedent and this year we have two new city council members who've decided to go against that precedent, go against recommendations of city staff, of the public, of the other councilmembers." 

Newly elected councilmembers Rob Newsom and Diaz Nash have said they wanted the council to appoint a fifth member first, who would then be able to weigh in on the appointment. 

"I am in full support of Amourence Lee being our mayor, she is the only returning councilmember," said rally organizer Lauren Fitzgerald.  "She's the only one with experience."  

During a lengthy public comment, residents sounded off on the delay.

"I've been very disappointed by your actions councilmember Diaz Nash. I am disappointed that you and councilmember Newsom are obstructing the process in order to pick the fifth councilmember and doing this by your shady, shady backroom deals. And San Mateo deserves better than this. San Mateo and its residents deserve honesty and transparency," said one resident during public comment. 

"I was shocked to see that the two of you would circumvent city policy to leave the city council without a mayor, preventing the entire council from actually governing and supporting our people," said another resident during public comment. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.