Compton mayor, city council members boosting salaries
Los Angeles County district attorney’s office reports that Compton mayor, city council members have been illegally cashing in on hefty payments
Civic leaders boosting salaries ‘straight outta’ public tax coffers; DA threatens prosecution if practice continues
COMPTON — Some local residents here are decrying “greed rules” in local politics, here, after information from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office began circulating that the City’s civic leaders have been illegally padding their salaries, cashing in on hefty payments for attendance at commission meetings that often don’t last a minute.
And the practice has been going on for years according to the DA’s office.
Gadflies who routinely frequent City Council meetings have been making these claims for years. Apparently, they have a point. In view of the city’s current money woes and inability to perform municipal functions like repairing the city’s streets, the revelations by the DA’s office are outrageous.
The letter from the DA’s office is addressed to City Atty. Craig J. Cornwell and reads in part:
“The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has received multiple complaints regarding the City of Compton Housing Development, Gaming, Public Finance Authority and Urban Community Development commissions. Accordingly, we have reviewed the city council resolutions creating these commissions, and the minutes of all commission meetings from 2008 through 2014. We note that the mayor and each council member is also a member of each of these commissions, solely by virtue of their being elected to office.”
While the DA acknowledges the mayor and each council member is a member of each commission, matters get scurrilous where the DA cites the Compton City Charter, Article 10, sections 1000 and 1001, allowing the council “to create by ordinance advisory boards or commissions,” but goes on to read, “[this] does not include the payment of a salary to the mayor or any council member for being a member of any commission.
The city charter further reads, “Compton City Charter Article 5, Section 504 is controlling as to the compensation of these individuals. Consequently, “sufficient appropriations of funds for the efficient and proper function” of the commissions does not provide the legal justification for payment of a salary to the mayor and city council members for their membership on these commissions.”
The city charter is clear as to a salary limitation, but a review of council agendas and attendance records from 2008 through 2014, show that the council authorized additional salary to be paid to the mayor and council members for each commission meeting held, regardless of whether or not the commission member attended the meeting.
The practice implicates city leadership going back to 2008. The salary-padding predates Mayor Aja Brown, and council members Isaac Galvan, Janna Zurita, and Emma Sharif, but records show the current body, including Yvonne Arceneaux, are at odds with the city charter and now find themselves in the crosshairs of criminal prosecution.
Compton council members collect $55,800 annually, and the mayor pulls in $63,000, for what essentially are part-time jobs. Brown is paid an additional $4,000 a month on top and the four council members received $3,400 additional money per month, the district attorney said. Additionally, the mayor and council receive a car allowance, and some council members also receive $150 a month in a cell phone allowance.
The commissions in question are the Housing Development Commission, for which board members receive $1,000 per month and have received since July 6, 1999; the Gaming Commission, for which board members received $250 only for meetings attended up to a maximum of four per month from Sept. 28, 1993 to Nov. 12, 1996. After that date the sum was increased to $1,000 per month.
Two other commissions are the Urban Community Development Commission, where board members receive $300 per month; and the Compton Public Finance Authority, where, since 2009, council members attending meetings have been paid $1,100 each month and the mayor, $1,700 per month.
The DA found that “the commission sessions are held immediately preceding the city council meetings and are often of very short duration. Many Housing commission meetings last only one minute, with an average throughout the years of eight to  minutes. Agendas contain little to no business and there is limited input from Compton citizens.”
The Gaming commission meetings “are also exceptionally brief,” according the DA’s letter, which goes on to read, “Some of these meetings last only one minute, and average between seven to  minutes. These meetings largely consist of the review and receipt of gaming revenue with limited discussion.
“No representative from the Crystal Casino ever appeared before the commission,” the DA found. “The Housing and Gaming commissions serve no obvious purpose other than providing additional compensation to the commission members in contravention of the explicit limitation of Article 5, Section 504 of the city charter.”
The letter concludes, “California Penal Code section 424 states that any officer of this state, or any county, city, town, or district of this state, and every other person charged with the receipt, safekeeping, transfer or disbursement of public moneys, who without authority of law, appropriates the same, or any portion thereof, to his or her own use, or to the use of another is guilty of a felony.
“City salaries are public money. There is no authority of law for the City of Compton to pay public officials money from the public coffers outside the parameters of the city charter. The practice of the mayor and council members to financially compensate themselves to serve on all of these commissions is a violation of the law which could result in prosecution for these public offenses if the practice continues.”
It is not clear why the DA has never prosecuted Compton officials, even though the illegal “padding” practice was clearly in evidence going back to 2008.
A local blog, 2UrbanGirls, first reported on the district attorney’s letter.