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Gary Bell. (Robert Rogers/Staff)

RICHMOND -- A newly elected councilman is in the intensive care unit of a Redwood City hospital after suffering a setback following more than a week of treatment for meningitis.

Gary Bell was elected to the Richmond City Council on Nov. 6 with just over 15 percent of the vote, earning him the third and final available seat. Incumbents Nat Bates and Tom Butt were re-elected, meaning Bell is set to be sworn in as the only new council member in January.

But Bell fell ill days before the election. Friends and supporters said Bell was ill with meningitis but was released from the hospital and managed to briefly appear at his election party on the night of Nov. 6, at Salute Ristorante in Marina Bay.

Bell was hospitalized again, later sent home and seemingly was on the mend. But on Saturday evening, he was readmitted to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Richmond then taken to the Kaiser facility in Redwood City, home to the Neuroscience Center that provides specialized neurological care to Kaiser members from all of Northern California.

A nurse confirmed that Bell was being treated in the Redwood City ICU on Monday.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord, most often caused by infection with a virus or a bacterium.


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Bell, 54, is president and CEO of Cooperative Federal Credit Union in Berkeley. He was first elected to Richmond's City Council in 1999, serving one term. In 2006, he ran for mayor in Richmond, losing in a tight three-way race with Gayle McLaughlin and incumbent Irma Anderson. He is married with two sons.

Joe Fisher, treasurer of Black Americans for Political Action, an influential local group that endorsed Bell, said he was saddened to hear that Bell was back in the hospital.

"I went to the hospital to visit Gary last week, and he was in really high spirits, ready to go home," Fisher said. "He was excited to move forward and to be back on the council."

On Nov. 7, Bell responded via his Facebook account to requests for comments on his election victory.

"I've been sick and in the hospital for the past few days," Bell wrote at 3:15 p.m. " ... call me early next week when I'm feeling better."

Bell was supported in this election by Moving Forward, a Chevron-funded campaign committee, and many local business leaders. Friends and supporters describe him as an affable, polished businessman.

Bell's prognosis is unknown. In the event that a council member resigns or is unable to serve their term, a vacancy may be filled by a person approved by a "majority of the remaining council members," according to the city charter.

The charter also directs that if the "vacancy is not filled by appointment within 60 days after the vacancy occurs, then a special election shall immediately be called by the council to elect a council member to serve for the (remainder) of the unexpired term."

Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or rrogers@bayareanewsgroup.com and follow Twitter.com/roberthrogers.