INGLEWOOD — A citizens group has launched an effort to recall three school board members and possibly the mayor of Inglewood after the board voted 3 to 2 this week to fire the school superintendent.
Between 50 and 75 parents and other citizens met Saturday and Monday to plan recall efforts against board members William Dorn, Caroline Coleman and Ernest Shaw, all of whom voted Monday to fire Supt. Rex Fortune. The group planned to meet again Wednesday night.
The Rev. Matthew M. Jefferson, one of two ministers leading the recall effort, said a formal notice will be filed with the city clerk this week against Dorn and similar notices will be filed against Coleman and Shaw after they have been in office 90 days. (Under state law, elected officials cannot be recalled until 90 days after they take office. Coleman and Shaw took office April 22. Recall proponents are also awaiting a clarification from the city clerk on the number of signatures needed to force an election.)
Jefferson said that if the recall efforts are successful, the next step will be an attempt to recall Mayor Ed Vincent. Jefferson and other Fortune backers said they believe the mayor and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Roosevelt Dorn "control" the majority faction on the school board. Dorn is a longtime political figure in Inglewood and is the uncle of William Dorn.
While Vincent has supported the majority faction in past elections and has endorsed its members in his political mailers, neither Shaw nor Coleman listed any contributions from the mayor in the April election.
"Judge Dorn and Mayor Vincent want to control everything in this town," said Jefferson, who is president of the Inglewood Ministerial Alliance. "They are behind this whole thing. I am praying that the citizens of Inglewood will get angry--coldly angry--as they try to clean up this community."
Judge Dorn denied trying to control the district. "As a juvenile court judge I have many school districts in my jurisdiction," he said. "I couldn't care less who runs them as long as I have good schools to send my wards to. As far as I'm concerned, Inglewood is the worst school district I have to deal with.
Vincent was unavailable for comment, as were board majority members. In the past, the mayor has denied trying to control the school board. Majority members Coleman and Shaw have denied that Vincent controls them; William Dorn generally refuses to talk to The Times.
Monday night, in a move that appeared to outrage most of the nearly 500 parents and other citizens gathered at Crozier Jr. High School, the board majority voted not only to fire Fortune, but also to ban him from district grounds after 5 p.m. Tuesday, when the dismissal took effect.
Under continual heckling and emotional outbursts from the audience, the majority faction also appointed Dorn president and Shaw vice president after removing William (Tony) Draper and Rose Mary Benjamin from those posts.
No Reason Given
As they have since they took power, majority members refused to give any reason for wanting Fortune out, with Dorn saying only, "It's for a cause."
Fortune, 43, has charged that his dismissal is the result of his refusal to appoint a friend of the mayor to a principalship. Vincent has denied that he ever made such a request.
The dismissal is the latest episode in a bitter political struggle that erupted when power shifted in the recent board election from the outgoing majority to an anti-Fortune bloc backed by the mayor.
At Monday's meeting, parents served Dorn with an informal notice of intent to recall, and warned that "this is just the beginning."
"We're going to hit the streets," parent William Jenkins said in an interview. "We're going to recall them all, including the mayor. This city is not just theirs for the taking."
After the meeting, Fortune appeared so upset that a security guard offered him a glass of water and then held his arm as he left the auditorium. Dozens from the audience gathered for a midnight huddle at the nearby Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church of the Rev. M. M. Merriweather, a former Vincent ally.
Merriweather, who told the group that he broke with Vincent and Dorn over the Fortune issue, recounted a conversation he said took place shortly after Fortune was hired in June, 1983, in which Vincent, Roosevelt Dorn and Shaw "plotted" the takeover of the school board.
"I heard them do it at Judge Dorn's house," he said. "Eddie (Vincent) said he wanted full control. 'If we get full control,' he said, 'we can do what we want.' I heard them plan to get Shaw in, to reelect Caroline (Coleman) and to get rid of Dr. Fortune. They wanted control so they could put all their people in.
"That's when I pulled out. I resigned from the Inglewood Democratic Club (a group founded by Roosevelt Dorn that supports Vincent), I fired Judge Dorn as a deacon in this church and his wife as president of the missionary society."