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Newly elected Councilmember Mike Detoy, Councilmember Stacey Armato, newly appointed Mayor Mary Campbell, newly appointed Mayor Pro Tem Justin Massey and Coucilmember Hany Fangary pictured at the Nov. 21 mayor rotation in Hermosa Beach. (photo by Michael Hixon)

A decision last week to skip over Hermosa Beach Councilman Hany Fangary from appointment as mayor pro tem has exposed divisions in the small beach community’s City Hall.

Fangary expected to be appointed mayor pro tem of Hermosa Beach last week in a routine ceremony, which typically has each council member serving in the roles of mayor and mayor pro tem on a rotating basis each year.

But the special council meeting Thursday, Nov. 21, in which then-Councilwoman Mary Campbell accepted the top job as mayor from then-Mayor Stacey Armato, went awry when Fangary was passed up for the mayor pro tem position.

Councilman Justin Massey, who was re-elected earlier this month, was chosen instead as mayor pro tem in a 4-1 vote. Fangary was the only dissenting vote.

Campbell said she nominated Massey as mayor pro tem because he “works collaboratively with the city manager and other council members.”

According to Campbell, Fangary has not been communicating with City Manager Suja Lowenthal since about April. Fangary disputed this claim, saying he corresponds with the city manager often during public meetings and has written her by email and text in recent months.

An apparent dispute between Fangary and Lowenthal became public during a council meeitng last month, when Fangary said he had lost confidence in the city manager. The comment came two days after the council conducted her annual performance evaluation.

“To make (Fangary) mayor pro tem would create an unworkable situation, because the mayor pro tem’s role requires communication and coordination with the city manager on an almost daily basis,” Campbell said in a statement. “I would welcome his rotation to mayor pro tem when he is willing to work with the city manager.”

Fangary said he was disappointed in Campbell’s comments and would demand they be retracted.

“I am incredibly disappointed” in the statement, Fangary said, “because the false information included in it has already, and will continue, to ruin my reputation, humiliate me and my family in the community and cause significant financial and personal injury to me and my family.”

Fangary, who was first elected in 2013, declined to go into detail about the nature of the dispute with Lowenthal because state law prohibits him from discussing personnel matters.

“There is no mandated protocol of how often a council member is required to communicate with the City Manager,” Fangary said, “and Mayor Campbell’s assertion that this is a critical issue is simply ludicrous.”

Campbell defended Lowenthal, saying she had the support of a majority of the council and has done a good job for the city since she was hired in August 2018.

“We are making progress on so many fronts under our city manager’s leadership,” Campbell said in a Monday, Nov. 25, interview. “I personally think she’s quite talented and capable. I think she’s working extremely hard and doing an excellent job.”

Contact this reporter at mhixon@tbrnews.com or on Twitter @michaeljhixon.com.

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