Arcata City Council, minus Councilmember Brett Watson | Screenshot from online meeting video


During an unusual meeting on Wednesday evening — held in the usual virtual fashion — the Arcata City Council cast a unanimous vote of no confidence in Mayor Brett Watson and elected another councilmember to serve out the remainder of Watson’s term as mayor.

Exactly what led to the council making this decision is pretty unclear. But according to a statement read by Councilmember Emily Goldstein, the decision was based on recent behaviors of Watson that “negatively affected the city and some of its staff members.”

“I move to have a vote of no confidence for Councilmember Brett Watson,” Goldstein said during the meeting. “For the public listening in, this means that I move to hold a vote to determine if the council believes Councilmember Watson is fit to serve on our Arcata City Council. We have no legal ability to remove him from the city council. However, I believe we owe it to the people of Arcata to make it clear — we do not align ourselves with the actions of Councilmember Watson. This last week, information came to light regarding alleged behaviors of Councilmember Watson that negatively affected the city and some of its staff members.”

Goldstein remained vague about what the alleged behaviors were that led to her motion of no confidence, saying only that it “could not be shared publicly at this time.”

After Goldstein read the statement she moved that the council vote no confidence, which was unanimously supported by Councilmembers Stacy Atkins-Salazar, Sarah Schaefer and Meredith Matthews.

Watson himself was conspicuously absent from the meeting.

The decision comes a little more than two months after Watson was arrested for driving under the influence and possession of cocaine. Following his arrest,  Watson issued a public statement saying that he was struggling with the one year anniversary of his father taking his own life.

“I’ve really been struggling with the loss this last week,” Watson wrote in the Aug. 3 statement. “I appreciate the community’s patience while I sort through the impact his death has had on me and the events of Sunday night.” 

The agenda for Wednesday’s special meeting — which was released on Tuesday — stated only that the mayor position was being vacated mid-term and that the council would be electing a new mayor and vice-mayor. Additional information was difficult to obtain and no one would say if Watson planned to leave the council. City staff would only tell the Outpost that the meeting was in response to Watson’s “need for some personal time.”

What happens next is still unclear. Watson has made no comment on if he plans to resign and, as Goldstein pointed out in her statement, the council cannot legally remove him. That would need to be done through a recall election. We can only assume that the details will become clearer in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, Watson does technically still sit on the Arcata City Council, but he is no longer the mayor. Using the usual rotation method, the council elected Atkins-Salazar as the new mayor and Goldstein as the new vice mayor. Both terms will end on Dec. 22, 2022.