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UFC Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz has come under scrutiny after filing for unemployment in the city of Huntington Beach, Calif. The problem? Ortiz is city council member and the mayor pro tem of Huntington Beach, positions he's held — and been paid for — since December.
Public records viewed by the Orange County Register show that Ortiz filed for unemployment on Feb. 20, stating his last day of work was Feb. 9. Under "reason for separation," Ortiz wrote “Still working part-time or on-call – related to the coronavirus (COVID-19).”
Ortiz claiming to "still" work part time is strange, since the Register reports that city council positions are only part time work. (Mayor pro tem, which is essentially a vice mayor, is largely a ceremonial position with no extra .) Council members receive paychecks every two weeks for just under $800, which Ortiz never stopped receiving.
When contacted by NBC Los Angeles, Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr confirmed that Ortiz had not stopped being paid.
"He's been receiving the same amount of wages and hours," Carr said. "It's my understanding that city council members are not eligible for unemployment, particularly when they are receiving their full salary," explained Carr, who is concerned that Ortiz may have committed fraud with his unemployment claim.
Ortiz also owns two Huntington Beach businesses — a gym and an athletic clothing store — and a $4 million home. The application for unemployment benefits warns that making false statements could lead to penalties.
Ortiz won a seat on the Huntington Beach city council in the Nov. 2020 election, and was selected as mayor pro tem on Dec. 7, the same day he was sworn in. This unemployment claim is just the latest in a series of bizarre and completely avoidable controversies that Ortiz has gotten himself into since then.
Ortiz's anti-mask stance has gotten him into trouble
Ortiz's opinions and actions began rankling his fellow council members almost immediately. Just days after the election he tried to attend a strategic planning meeting at the local library, but was barred from the building by the mayor because he refused to wear a mask. Ortiz's anti-mask stance was part of his campaign platform, so he called into the meeting from his car instead of going home and getting a mask.
After disrupting a late December council meeting because he refused to put on a mask, Ortiz's anti-mask stance caused a rift between him and a local burger joint in January, which led to major community backlash. Ortiz was refused service at TK Burgers because he wouldn't wear a mask, and then posted an indignant video about it on social media.
If Ortiz was imagining an outpouring of support because he'd been denied a burger, he had another thing coming. For several days after Ortiz posted his video, TK Burgers had long lines of customers — all masked — who came out to support the local institution. Ortiz ended up apologizing.
Vote of no confidence fizzles out
In late January, after less than two months as mayor pro tem, Ortiz's controversial behavior led the city council to schedule a vote of no confidence against him, which would have removed him from his position (though he would have stayed on as a city council member). The vote fizzled and Ortiz kept his position and title, though several council members voiced concern about his ongoing behavior.
More recently, Ortiz's refusal to wear a mask caused the council to table plans to start meeting in person, despite a drop in COVID-19 cases in the area.
“I’ll show up and do my job,” Ortiz said at the March 29 meeting, via the OC Register. “And if I get escorted out by police that’s you guys’ choice.”
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