RICHMOND -- Councilman-elect Gary Bell remains in a coma after two neurosurgeries in November and will be unable to attend the city's swearing-in ceremony Tuesday, according to a statement released by his family late Thursday.
"As much as (Gary) and his supporters worked to win election to the council, we know Gary unselfishly wants what is best for the people of Richmond," his wife, Shelley Ross-Bell, said in the news release. "On behalf of our entire family, we offer our regrets that my husband is now unable to serve as many had hoped. We thank each of you for your cards, support, love and prayers."
Bell, 54, was hospitalized with a "severe bacterial sinus infection" in the days after the Nov. 6 election, where he won one of three open spots on the City Council, according to the release. His wife and two adult sons said earlier news reports erroneously labeled Bell's sickness as meningitis.
Bell was sick in the days before the election but continued to campaign, even checking himself out of a Richmond hospital on Election Day to thank supporters gathered at a local restaurant.
Bell was rushed back to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Richmond on the afternoon of Nov. 10. Doctors in Richmond decided to transfer Bell to a Kaiser facility in Redwood City for emergency surgery to relieve swelling on his brain.
The Redwood City campus is home to the Neuroscience Center that provides specialized neurological care to Kaiser members from all of Northern California.
It was not clear Thursday where Bell is hospitalized.
Councilman Corky Booze said Thursday he was "devastated" by the news that Bell remains in a coma and will be unable to be sworn in Tuesday.
"I wish Gary and his family nothing but the best," Booze said.
Councilman Tom Butt said, "This is very unfortunate, and I feel very sorry for his wife and his family. I hope Gary makes a full recovery."
Both men said the city charter gives the council 60 days to either appoint a successor or call a new public election.
Bell is president and CEO of Cooperative Federal Credit Union in Berkeley. He was first elected to the Richmond City Council in 1999, serving one term. In 2006, he ran for mayor, losing in a tight three-way race with Gayle McLaughlin and incumbent Irma Anderson.
This year, with heavy financial support from Chevron Corp., which runs a major refinery in Richmond, Bell earned about 15 percent of the vote, good for the third and final available council seat.