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Council member plunges into coma

Sinus ailment places adjunct faculty member in hospital

Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 15:02

Shortly after being voted into a second non-consecutive term as a Richmond City Council member in the Nov. 6 election executive and Contra Costa College adjunct faculty professor Gary Bell was hospitalized with a sinus bacterial infection.

After two neurosurgeries Bell was put into a medically induced coma in order to expedite his recovery. As of Tuesday, Bell remains in the coma and the city has been forced to find a replacement.

“My husband’s prognosis is good, and we remain optimistic that he will experience a full recovery,” Shelley Ross-Bell said regarding her husband’s hospitalization in a press release found on Gary Bell’s Facebook page, “Friends of Gary Bell.”

“With (supporters’) continued prayers, we are confident that Gary will be able to address you personally in the future — as you know he would prefer.”

Media contact for Bell, Angela Cleo Smith, said Bell’s family is not releasing much information and that the latest information is on the Facebook page. As of Monday, she had no additional information.

Although Bell won a seat on the council, his illness prevented him from assuming the position on Nov. 8 — a Richmond city charter requirement.

In his absence, the council is currently searching for a replacement.

“Because he was not sworn in on (Nov. 8) it created a vacancy,” Assistant to the Richmond City Council Trina Jackson said. “The city charter (required Bell) to be sworn in by the eighth.”

Section 3, Article 10 of the Richmond city charter states that any vacancy in the city council shall be resolved by a majority vote of the remaining members within 60 days of the vacancy. If the seat is not filled by then, a special election is required to fill the space.

On Monday the council held a meeting to  approve a candidate. Four of the remaining six council members had to vote for one candidate to assume the seat.

If the council cannot agree on a candidate the seat will be filled through a special election in June.

Last week workers canvassed CCC  in hopes of gathering signatures in order to bypass the vote by the council and force a special election.

“We don’t want the city council to appoint someone to take his spot,” John Laurel said while standing outside of the Library and Learning Resource Center gathering signatures on Jan. 28.

“A lot of people think (whosoever is voted in by the council) could be a far left person — a Republican. We want it to be put to an election, that way anyone would be able to run.”

Laurel said 12,000 signatures were needed — but the gatherers fell short of the goal.

Twelve candidates have bid to take Bell’s spot including Eduardo Martinez, Mike Ali-Kinney, Eleanor Thompson, Bea Roberson, Jael Myrick and Mark Wassberg — all who ran for Richmond City Council in November.

Thirty-three-year-old Stann Cortez, small-business owner Vinay Pimple, retired steamfitter Don Gosney, former chairwoman of the Richmond Human Rights and Human relations Commission Kathleen Sullivan, former councilmen John Marquez and Tony Thurmond round out the list.

Hired in 2008 as an adjunct faculty member in the business and real estate department, Bell is still currently an instructor at CCC teaching business mathematics and small business management.

“He’s well educated and he’s always (worked professionally) in finances,” business and real estate department Chairperson Joseph DeTorres said. “He’s also been involved in politics. That’s what attracted (CCC to him) — he had experience in both arenas.”

DeTorres said Bell also spent time outside of the classroom to help students. One way he did that was as the co-adviser of the Business Club.

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