Activists Joyce Kelly and William Kemp on steps of Compton City Hall, August 12, 2010.
The salaries may not be as high as they are in Bell, but some activists in Compton say the corruption in that city’s government is worse. They’ve have launched an effort to recall the city’s mayor and three other officials.
Corruption charges are nothing new in Compton. A jury convicted its last mayor, Omar Bradley, of misappropriating funds. Activists have thrown the same accusation at current Mayor Eric Perrodin, along with charges of civil rights violations at public meetings, and collecting payment for serving on commissions without attending their meetings.
"So many things have happened to take away the rights, and integrity, the respect from the residents in this city," said activist Joyce Harvey Kelley, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor against Perrodin last year. She's hoping that the salary scandal in the City of Bell might also bring to light problems in Compton.
"Our salaries aren’t as high as Bell’s but there are more things going on illegally, and more corrupt things in this city than in the City of Bell," Kelly said. Kelly's now leading a recall campaign that targets the mayor, a city councilwoman, the city attorney and city clerk.
Corruption charges also led Compton to disband its police department 10 years ago. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies patrol Compton, but for public safety, the city has also contracted with a firm Perrodin’s brother Percy owns. Activist William Kemp calls that another corrupt practice: nepotism.
"No other city has a law enforcement contractor," said Kemp. "Every city has a public safety department with a public safety director. Ours is the mayor’s brother. "
Perrodin wasn’t available for comment, but a few supporters like Lorraine Cervantes showed up to defend him and the city council. She pointed to Kemp's and Kelly's unsuccessful campaigns for office in Compton.
"They lost, and now they come every week and complain about virtually everything," said Cervantes, who's lived in Compton for almost 58 years.
The activists say they’ve asked state authorities and the L.A. County District Attorney’s office to investigate. The latter request has presented a conflict of interest: Mayor Eric Perrodin also serves as an L.A. County Deputy District Attorney.