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Denied Full-Time Position, Inglewood Mayor to Return to a Steady Job

September 03, 1987|SEBASTIAN ROTELLA | Times Staff Writer

Edward Vincent still says that being mayor of Inglewood is a 24-hour-a-day job.

But five months after voters resoundingly defeated an initiative to raise the mayor's yearly salary from $10,500 to $49,621, Vincent says he has no choice but to return to work as a Los Angeles County probation officer. Vincent, who joined the Probation Department in 1956, has been on leave from the county without pay since 1983, shortly after he was elected.

"What else can I do?" Vincent said in an interview this week. "I've got to live. I'll have less time to spend in the community. It'll slow me down but it won't stop me. I'll keep up my level of intensity."

Probation officials said Vincent has asked to work a night shift in a program for juvenile offenders when such a position opens near Inglewood, possibly this month. Vincent will return as a deputy probation officer, Grade 2, making $3,100 a month, according to Special Services Deputy Director Lula Hurte.

Vincent, 52, was making about $2,600 when he went on unpaid leave in June, 1983, getting some sick pay and disability benefits for about a year afterward, Hurte said.

Vincent's decision appears to close the book on Proposition 1, the proposed City Charter amendment that spurred debate earlier this year about the distribution of power in city government.

Proponents said Inglewood's growth and accompanying urban problems required a full-time mayor who would be more accountable to residents than city staff, which some said had become too powerful.

Opponents said Vincent was simply trying to avoid going back to work, and pointed out that Inglewood already has the highest paid city manager in the country. City Administrator Paul Eckles makes $117,514 in salary and benefits.

About 62% of the voters said no to the proposition.

According to the City Charter, the city's mayor is the fifth member of the City Council and presides at its meetings. He must sign official documents and perform ceremonial duties. In addition, city ordinances require him to sit on the boards of several agencies.

Vincent described himself as a tireless leader and salesman of the city. He said he has worked to combat prostitution and graffiti, attract developers and obtain funds for recycling land beneath the flight paths to Los Angeles International Airport.

"I took time off because as the first black mayor of this city I wanted to be a success," Vincent said. "I'm proud of what I've done."

Vincent said the job has meant economic sacrifice for him, but said it has been worthwhile. He says he and his wife Marilyn, who works for the Compton school district, have lived on their combined income of about $40,000 a year, plus savings.

"There's no way you can profit from being mayor," he said. "You have to evaluate your priorities. One day they'll have a full-time mayor in this city. It might not be me, but they'll need a full-time mayor."

Proponents of Proposition 1 regretted that the mayor will have to divide his energies.

"It's a shame," said Frank Denkins, the owner of a dry-cleaning firm, who said he had hoped that Proposition 1 would make city government more accountable. "The city administrator is running this city. I wish there was some way the mayor could be supported full time. The citizens suffer from this."

Opponents of Proposition 1 said there would be no negative impact on the city and said that despite Vincent's protestations of a staggering workload, the mayor's position is largely ceremonial.

"I don't believe being mayor is a full-time job," said Councilman Anthony Scardenzan. "You don't need to have the personal touch of the mayor in every item. The council's job is to set policy, not run city business. The city is not going to suffer a bit. Nobody asked him to quit his job. The staff will simply do what it used to do, perhaps more efficiently and expertly."

Council members Ann Wilk and Daniel Tabor also said Vincent's return to work would not affect the city. Eckles and Councilman Ervin (Tony) Tomas could not be reached for comment.

"He'll still have time, energy and interest to act in his role as mayor," said Tabor, who backed away from his initial sponsorship of Proposition 1 during the spring campaign. "I'd prefer we were all full time."

Tabor said that even if the proposition had passed, it would not have shifted power from the city staff to the mayor.

He said that developers and others who deal with the city perceive the office of mayor as more powerful than it is. "The position is essentially ceremonial," Tabor said.

Vincent's return to work may not end debate over the mayor's role in city government. While some opponents of Proposition 1 said the defeat of the initiative has laid the issue to rest, other political observers echoed Vincent's position that new efforts to create a full-time position are inevitable as the city grows.

"Proposition 1 did not respond to the issue of more control of the city's progress by the mayor and council," Tabor said. "The issue will come up again."

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