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Inglewood Councilman Assails Own Ballot Measure to Hike Mayor's Pay

January 01, 1987|MICHELE L. NORRIS | Times Staff Writer

INGLEWOOD — City Councilman Danny Tabor, who in November introduced a ballot measure to quadruple the mayor's salary, is now criticizing the measure, saying he was falsely led to believe that the mayor's responsibilities would also be increased.

"This is not what I had in mind when I agreed to introduce this thing," Tabor said in an interview.

To "set the record straight," Tabor said, he is sending a letter to residents in his district criticizing the proposed Charter amendment. The letter also says the mayor and City Council should take a greater role in city government.

"The essential responsibilities of the mayor and council must be refocused to include hands-on responsibility for oversight of city services and economic growth," Tabor states in his letter. "The council must do more than rubber-stamp the decisions of city staff."

Other city officials, however, said Tabor is miffed because he erroneously thought that the measure would provide him with a raise, too.

Tabor said he introduced the ballot measure--which would make Mayor Edward Vincent's position a full-time job and raise his yearly salary from $10,800 to $49,621--at the urging of City Councilman Virgle Benson and other city officials whom he would not name.

Balance of Power

Benson acknowledged in an interview that he asked Tabor to sponsor the measure because Benson is up for reelection in the spring. Tabor said he agreed, "thinking that this would help balance power in the city by giving the mayor more authority."

"As it stands now, almost all the power in the city rests with one person, and that one person is City Manager Paul Eckles," Tabor said.

He said he supports Eckles, but believes that too many decisions are made by staff members and never come before the council. He said the mayor and council should become more involved in development and economic growth issues, but was not specific about how to accomplish that.

In introducing the salary measure in November, Tabor said in a press release and in a memo to city officials that it was intended to discourage Vincent from seeking higher office.

This week, however, he said that city staff members, whom he declined to name, "concocted that excuse to make it sound better," and attached his name to it.

The council on Dec. 11 voted unanimously to place the measure on the April 7 municipal ballot. The measure would amend the City Charter to make the mayor's salary two-thirds of a Municipal Court judge's salary. It also would specify several responsibilities that Vincent already performs, such as appointing heads of committees and chairing the city's housing and redevelopment boards, but would not add any duties.

Asked why he voted for the measure without a provision to increase the mayor's duties, Tabor said he did not "fully understand the ramifications of the Charter amendment."

"I wanted to give the residents more representative government. I did not have this in mind and I want to set the record straight," he said.

He said he was not responding to any citizen pressure but acknowledged that he fears the issue could hurt him in future races.

Some city officials contacted this week said Tabor is criticizing the city and the proposal because it would not raise his pay. The Charter says that the city council will receive one half of what the mayor earns, but the ballot measure would remove that provision.

"I think Danny assumed that he would be receiving one-half of $50,000 and now he is sour because he is not up for a raise, too," said a city official who declined to be identified.

Tabor, a youth counselor, acknowledged that he initially thought that the proposal would also include pay raises for the council, but said his main motive for introducing the ordinance was to "improve city government."

Proposal to Raise Salary

"They came to me with a proposal to raise Ed's salary and it sounded OK so I agreed," Tabor said. "I thought it would help balance the power in city hall by giving Ed more responsibility and more authority. But all this does is raise his salary. This is a form of cronyism."

Vincent, who has declined to comment on the ballot initiative since it was introduced more than a month ago, is already the highest-paid mayor in the South Bay. Inglewood City Manager Paul Eckles, who earns an estimated $116,148 annual salary-and-benefit package, is the highest-paid city manager in the country, according to the International City Managers Assn. in Washington.

Several residents have suggested that Eckles take a pay cut if voters increase the mayor's salary.

"Why should Paul Eckles continue to earn $100,000-plus if the mayor is going to be making all this money?" said Frank Denkins, chairman of the Inglewood Breakfast Forum civic group, in an interview.

"If you ask me, there is a tea party going on in City Hall," he said. "I don't know of anyone who has gotten a fourfold salary increase for doing the same thing they have been doing all along. The whole thing smells."

However, at public hearings to discuss the ballot initiative, as many residents spoke in favor of the proposed salary increase as against it.

"I think the mayor deserves $50,000 a year for what he is doing right now," said resident Leonard Matthews. "He works so hard now that I don't think he can take on any more responsibilities."

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