COMPTON — Two City Council members signaled this week that they don't intend to alter their decision in the public nuisance case against Francesca Houpe, even if it costs Councilman Floyd A. James his office.
Council members Maxcy D. Filer and Jane D. Robbins said as much Tuesday, as they blocked their colleagues from calling a secret meeting to discuss the case. "As far as I'm concerned," Filer said, "the matter has been decided and it shouldn't go any further."
Filer and Robbins cast two of three council votes in January to declare Houpe's home a nuisance after police reported finding three marijuana plants in her yard. At the time, Houpe was a prosecution witness in an election fraud case against James. And during the nuisance hearings, it surfaced that James had alerted police to the marijuana and then asked city legal officials if a nuisance proceeding might be warranted.
Now, James has pleaded no contest to one election charge, and a Superior Court judge is threatening to impose a felony conviction--which would result in removal of the councilmanunless the city action against Houpe is reversed before James' sentencing on March 30.
City Atty. Wesley Fenderson Jr. explained Tuesday that he sought the private session, as permitted under state law, because "there is some information I must impart to the council" about a $5-million civil rights suit that Houpe has filed against the city.
But Filer argued that it was unwise to discuss the case. "Anything that's discussed in executive session is discoverable (legally available to Houpe's attorney) and I'm just afraid of what's going to happen if we start discussing something that we can't change anyway."
Although he reluctantly abstained from voting, on the advice of Fenderson, James argued that Filer was basing his opposition solely on newspaper reports of the judge's desire to have Houpe's case overturned. "The city attorney has a matter on the agenda as relates to Francesca Houpe and what he's going to speak about when we get into executive session, I don't have any knowledge of," James said.
Mayor Walter R. Tucker and Councilman Robert L. Adams favored the closed-door session while Filer and Robins were opposed. James' abstention left the issue deadlocked and thus defeated.