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Tucker Uses Campaign Fete as Occasion to Hire Family

July 26, 1987|WILLIAM NOTTINGHAM | Times Staff Writer

COMPTON — Supporters of Mayor Walter R. Tucker contributed $42,125 to his election campaign earlier this year, most of it at a February testimonial dinner where the program was entitled "Charity Begins at Home."

But at least $19,220 of the political funds wound up in the pockets of a son, two daughters and five other Tucker relatives, according to a campaign report recently filed by the mayor.

And a man identified in the report as having received $1,500 to videotape the testimonial said last week that he actually received only $650, part of which he shared with one of the Tucker relatives.

Chance to Comment Refused

The state Political Reform Act of 1974 requires that campaign reports be accurate. And the Elections Code states that if a relative or anyone else is paid from contributions, that person must have performed a legitimate activity that bears "a reasonable relationship to political, legislative or governmental purposes."

When contacted last week about his campaign report and payments to relatives, Tucker declined to comment in detail. "You're asking me something you'd have to ask them," said the mayor, who is two years away from facing reelection. "I don't have to answer any questions."

In separate interviews, two relatives said they were paid for legitimate campaign work. The other six could not be reached for comment.

According to the report, the family members were paid primarily for helping to produce the Feb. 27 testimonial, an evening of singing, dancing, speeches and proclamations that followed a prime-rib dinner at the new Long Beach Ramada Renaissance Hotel.

Son Walter R. Tucker III, for example, received $7,000 for coordinating the dinner and acting as master of ceremonies, the report states. The son's wife, Robin Tucker, received $500 for singing at the testimonial, plus $1,700 for being "music coordinator and director." And one of the mayor's daughters, Keta Tucker Collins, collected $750 for handling "deliveries, phone calling and collections."

The affair, by all accounts, was a gala tribute to the 62-year-old Tucker, described in the 10-page testimonial program as a public servant who has "instilled in (Compton) citizens a sense of pride and well being." And it offered an upbeat note at a time when the mayor's family fortunes were on the wane.

Wife's Fraud Suit Settled

A month before the dinner, Tucker's wife, Martha, and sister-in-law Barbara Hall were charged with defrauding a Long Beach man of $45,000 in a real-estate transaction at Mattco Financial Inc., a business the mayor owned and his wife operated. A preliminary hearing in the case is set for Aug. 18.

Six days after the dinner, Tucker's wife repaid the $45,000--as well as $11,865 in interest, fees and damages--to settle a civil suit, from which the criminal charges stem.

On May 27, their $350,000 Compton residence came within 20 minutes of being auctioned at a public foreclosure sale before the Tuckers satisfied a delinquent $16,354 debt, records show.

None of the campaign money went to the mayor's wife, according to the report. The eight Tucker relatives named in the report include:

Barbara Hall, the mayor's sister-in-law and a co-defendant in the real-estate fraud case. She received $750 for making "phone calls, deliveries and collections" and $110 as a "mailer worker."

Harry Hall, a nephew of the mayor and son of Barbara Hall. He received $220, also as a "mailer worker."

Keta Tucker Collins, one of the mayor's daughters. In addition to the $750 for deliveries and phone calls, she received $2,000 for professional campaign management and consulting services through an entity identified as "A.H. Enterprises."

Camille Tucker, the mayor's other daughter. She received $120 as a "mailer worker" and $500 for providing dinner hostesses through something identified as "Camille Tucker & Hostesses."

The family member who received the most was Tucker's son, a lawyer now defending his mother in the criminal case. He did not return calls for comment.

Interest-Free Loans

After he repaid a $3,528 interest-free loan made from his father's campaign late last year, the report says, the younger Tucker was given a $4,500 interest-free loan.

The son also received a $500 testimonial dinner payment for "original planning: selection of hotel, printers, prices, dates & theme." He received $500 for "development of the testimonial dinner programs" and $500 for "attaining and creating ads for the program." Another $750 was paid to him for "phone calling of principal contributors, collections and deliveries." And he received $500 for acting as master of ceremonies.

The son received $1,500 for "dinner coordination with Russ Bryant, Renaissance Hotel: Menu, lighting, suite, occupancy guaranty, contract review, floorplan, ballroom selection."

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