SACRAMENTO — Compton City Manager Laverta S. Montgomery has become accustomed to a hectic schedule since her appointment to the state Lottery Commission in January.
For example, Montgomery plans to help kick off the lottery today by riding in a San Francisco parade and later flying to Los Angeles to participate in Hollywood Bowl ceremonies.
The kickoff is "just the beginning" of the lottery, she noted, adding that the Sacramento-based commission still has plenty of work ahead, including awarding several major contracts.
But Compton Councilman Maxcy Filer, who last January questioned Montgomery's ability to juggle the two jobs, said in an interview that the city manager has dropped the ball at City Hall.
"There are many times when I can't reach her," Filer said.
Montgomery conceded that the lottery has "consumed some of my thought processes," but said that she hasn't spent many days away from City Hall working on the lottery.
"I'm always available to them (council members)," she said, through her beeper, car phone or in person.
Despite Filer's criticism, Mayor Walter Tucker said the council in general is pleased with Montgomery's performance. In fact, the council last month voted to increase her salary from $5,016 a month to $6,121, or about $73,000 a year. The vote was 4 to 1, with Filer opposed.
"I think it's a feather in our cap she was chosen" to serve on the commission, Tucker said, brushing aside criticism.
The mayor said he expects the demands on Montgomery's time to diminish as the lottery kicks into gear. Otherwise, he said, the council could review Montgomery's job status when her contract comes up for renewal next year.
Council members generally have viewed Montgomery, who has held several positions with the city in the past 15 years, as a key figure in efforts to revitalize Compton.
Gov. George Deukmejian selected her as one of five lottery commissioners from a field of more than 1,000 candidates.
From Jan. 29, when she was tabbed for the part-time post, to June 30, Montgomery spent 67 days on lottery business for which she was paid $6,700, according to commission records made available to the Los Angeles Times. Commissioners are paid $100 a day plus expenses.
A commission spokesman said Montgomery has not filed a pay claim for July--the most recent month for which complete records for other commissioners are available. Montgomery estimated in an interview that in July she spent another 8 to 10 days on commission business--giving her a total of between 75 and 77 days since her appointment.
That figure would rank Montgomery in the middle of her colleagues, all of whom are retired or semi-retired. They are:
- Kennard W. Webster, a former partner in a national accounting firm, with 96 days.
- William Johnston, a former Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent, with 84 days.
- John M. Price, a former Sacramento County district attorney, with 73 days.
- Howard Varner, a former president of a major restaurant organization, 53 days. His figures are lower because for six weeks last spring, Varner temporarily stepped down from the commission and served as the interim executive director of the lottery.
Montgomery said that the workload, including finding a permanent director, has been heavier than anticipated for all the commissioners.
In addition, Montgomery said, as the only black and the lone woman on the commission she receives many telephone inquiries about how minorities can become lottery contractors and invitations to speak about the lottery.
Moreover, Montgomery said, on several occasions this year she has been away from both jobs to care for an ailing sister, who has since died of cancer.
The state Senate confirmed Montgomery's appointment, 38 to 0, on Sept. 13, before adjourning for the year.
Despite the publicity that Montgomery's appointment has attracted for Compton, Filer says he is dissatisfied with her approach to her job as city manager.
In particular, Filer said, the city staff often seeks to postpone a decision or action until Montgomery is available. However, he said he could not cite any specific issue on which this has caused a major problem. And he conceded that Montgomery usually attends City Council meetings.
Montgomery countered that she has cut back on other outside activities, such as attending regional meetings with other city managers.
"Actually, I haven't spent that much time away from here on the lottery," she said.
Montgomery said that she flies to Sacramento, where the lottery is headquartered, several times a month.
In tabulating her lottery workload, Montgomery said, she often will add up hours spent over several days and list them as one day of work.
"When people call me, I go out and do speeches and it's not actually time spent in Sacramento but it's time spent working on the lottery," Montgomery said.