Mayor Konstantine Anthony landed in the spotlight again this week as the City Council discussed the possibility of removing him as mayor for his conduct following a controversial spanking incident caught on video earlier this month.
Councilmembers made their varied positions on Anthony’s conduct clear, but ultimately chose to allow the mayor to keep his position through his appointed term, which ends in December.
Anthony has faced criticism from City Council members and the community for weeks following his public conduct after a video surfaced on social media showing him being spanked with a paddle by a drag queen during a fundraising event in Santa Clarita.
The incident was secretly recorded during a drag queen-led bingo night hosted by the Santa Clarita Valley Democrats and was amplified on social media by prominent anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups.
Anthony apologized on many occasions during the Tuesday meeting, not for the incident itself, but for instigating further online discourse and bringing national attention to the city in a way that thinned already anemic staff resources.
“The mayor needs to be held to a different standard. The mayor needs to bring people together. My response to recent criticism, both public and private responses, social media and email: It wasn’t appropriate. … and that wasn’t fair. That wasn’t fair to all of you [Councilmembers] it wasn’t fair to the city as a whole. It was unbecoming of a mayor. I looked back and I saw that there were many opportunities to deescalate — many — and often I would choose to escalate,” Anthony said.
“That’s not a role that a mayor should have,” he continued. “I think those actions did not serve the community at large, which is really what the job is. Getting into these public fights over ideology and politics. It wastes so much precious time and resources. And that is what I am sorry about.”
Councilwoman Tamala Takahashi thanked Anthony for his apology. “One of the hard things about apologies, first of all is giving them … but also knowing that it may not be quite enough to apologize,” said Takahashi. “Thank you for your apology and I hope that it will be followed by changed behavior.”
The panel discussed the mayor’s decorum on social media with all Councilmembers agreeing that public officials must exercise caution when interacting with an angered public.
Councilwoman Zizette Mullins — a critic of Anthony — headed up the effort to remove the mayor from his seat but was unable to garner support from her fellow Councilmembers. She suggested that Vice Mayor Nick Schultz take on the position until December when the Council does its annual reorganization.
“The residents’ voices have gone unheard, their concerns dismissed. As City Council, it’s our responsibility to demand accountability. I never imagined I would have to do this, but you have given me no choice Mr. Anthony,” Mullins said.
Mullins echoed sentiments of residents who felt that the mayor should not have allowed the spanking incident to occur in the first place, though others on the Council maintained that they didn’t care about the act itself. Schultz said that he was glad Anthony did it, adding that it takes bravery to advocate for marginalized groups.
The video went viral nationally, leading Anthony to give an interview on Fox News where he discussed a number of policy issues, including his stance on abolishing the police and Marxism. An additional layer of scrutiny was applied to Anthony’s conduct as he is currently running to take Kathryn Barger’s seat on the County Board of Supervisors.
“He used the notoriety of the event to advance his campaign for supervisor, and to seek national publicity on [Fox News], where he advocated for abolishing the police and described Marxism as the American dream,” Mullins said.
“Instead of focusing on important city business,” Mullins said, raising a printed stack of more than 100 emails, “the City Council and city staff had to respond to hundreds of phone calls, texts, emails that were completely unnecessary and distracting from city business.”
Mullins said that other Councilmembers were contacted by Fox News, and all but Anthony declined to comment.
“All due respect this is not a news story,” said Schultz. “And the thing I fault you with the most Mr. Mayor, as a friend, is going on Fox News because in my view, this is a network that has lied about the results of the 2020 election, has lied about COVID-19, has lied about climate change. They are an illegitimate news source.”
During public comment, residents asked if Anthony benefited from the media attention that followed with spanking incident. Councilwoman Nikki Perez and other councilmembers cautioned Anthony from bringing his political aspirations into city business.
“We need to think about what is best for the longevity of this institution of government … what is sound not just for this moment, but the future of Burbank. The decision we make now sets precedent for the future and, if we make a decision thinking about politics, then that is going to set the future of this Council in the direction of becoming political,” Perez said.
Many comments online made the false claim that the mere act of associating with a transgender person is akin to being a pedophile. Councilmembers across the board condemned such hate speech.
“This is a very serious matter. People are groomed and they are trafficked every single day, and all I can say is I have no respect for people that throw that out there as some sort of a political argument,” Schultz said.
Perez made similar comments, highlighting that the video was spread to social media intentionally by those who sought to divide the city.
“I want to step away from some of the rhetoric. I know some people want to remove [the mayor] because of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. … this entire conversation is dividing our city,” Perez said.
Perez added that there was no crime committed, and from her perspective on the dais she felt there was room for discussion and improvement, as opposed to choosing to remove Anthony from his position as mayor.
It was clear to the panel and many of Tuesday’s public speakers that Anthony’s conduct following the video release spurred more hateful rhetoric, however. Anthony and the Council made clear that they support drag and the LGBTQ+ community.
“Supporting and advocating are good and positive, but antagonizing people just to antagonize, that’s childish,” said Anthony.
Schultz gave his address last, and in doing so clarified for that he wanted to wait for the mayor to speak before considering how he would vote.
“I believe in redemption … and what I heard tonight tells me that I think you get it,” Schultz said. “There is rightful outrage about the mayor’s handling of this, but I also have outrage about all of these right-wing media sources that made this a national issue.”
The vice mayor directed his comments at his colleagues and the public, saying that he did not feel the mayor really deserved a punishment quite so extreme as being removed from his position.
“There are a lot of people over the last couple of weeks wanting me to be a critical vote to remove you,” Schultz said to Anthony. “But I really just wanted to hear what you had to say and all I heard was someone who was reflecting, who is looking at their conduct and how they can be better.”
Ultimately, the Council chose to take no action, clarifying several points in which the mayor could improve his conduct in his role. They directed city staff to return with recommendations on City Councilmember public conduct.
First published in the September 30 print issue of the Burbank Leader.