Temecula council to meet Tuesday for first time since mayor’s resignation

James 'Stew' Stewart

The Temecula City Council will meet Tuesday night for the first time since Mayor James Stewart’s resignation over an email to a constituent that many criticized as racist.

The city council will discuss a proposed “Temporary Expanded Dining/Retail program in Old Town” to offer guidance for reopening local businesses as state and county officials begin to lift coronavirus-related health orders, as well as both a community participation plan for administering federal Community Development Block Grant funding and a plan for road and park improvements, in a meeting that is expected to be run by Mayor Pro Tem Maryann Edwards in Stewart’s absence.

The city council at a future meeting will have to discuss who to appoint as mayor for the remainder of 2020 and whether to appoint a replacement for Stewart’s council seat through this November’s election, but neither of those items were able to be put on this week’s agenda, which was drafted before Stewart’s resignation and still lists him as mayor.

Edwards, as mayor pro tem, typically would be called upon to perform the duties of the mayor in this circumstance, Temecula City Clerk said in an email Friday morning, but she will remain in the mayor pro tem position until the council collectively votes on a new mayor or mayor pro tem. 

There are expected to be a large number of public comments at Tuesday’s meeting. Prior to Stewart’s resignation, some critics of his email posted on Twitter and Facebook calling for Temecula residents to make their voices heard at this week’s city council meeting.

Some cities, including Wildomar, have allowed constituents to call in themselves to give their statements during their council meetings’ public comment sessions, but this will not be the case for Temecula. When asked via email whether the city had considered allowing constituents to call in, Temecula City Clerk Randi Johl said: “with the local, county, and state declarations and orders still in place and mass gatherings still prohibited, the meeting tomorrow will be conducted similarly to the last few virtual meetings. All comments will be received and read into the record pursuant to the notice on the front page of the agenda.”

Johl said a total of 30 public comments had been received as of Monday evening.

Stewart stepped down last Thursday after apologizing for an email to a constituent sent the night of June 2 that reads, in part: “And I don’t believe there’s ever been a good person of color killed by a police officer.” The email quickly drew backlash when images of it were shared on social media; Stewart, apparently in reaction, shared his own screenshot of the email, saying: “So you are all going to hear about this.”

After a day of receiving heavy criticism as well as support from some of his constituents, he announced Thursday night that he would immediately resign both as mayor and from his city council seat, to which he was elected in 2016.

“City of Temecula, I hear you, I agree with you, and I am deeply sorry,” Stewart said in announcing his resignation on Facebook. “I owe everyone an apology including our citizens of all backgrounds and ethnicities, City staff, and my respected colleagues on the City Council. You have every right to be offended. My typos and off-the-cuff response to an email on a serious topic added pain at a time where our community, and our country, is suffering. I may not be the best writer and I sometimes misspeak, but I am not racist. I regret this mistake and I own it, entirely. I am truly sorry.”

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. June 9, and can be viewed online at temeculaca.gov/tv .  

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.