COMPTON — There aren't many jobs that pay $1,200 for 4 1/2 hours work.
But that is what some members of the Compton City Council have received for serving as directors of the city's newly created Public Finance Authority--a job that city records indicate has consisted largely of listening to a prayer and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Since its inception in November, the authority has met 12 times to help manage the proceeds from a recent $40-million redevelopment bond sale. And for every meeting they attend, council members are paid $100.
Beyond the 2-hour, 12-minute first meeting in which the authority's charter and bonding regulations were adopted, and a 36-minute second meeting when some revisions were made, only one of the 10 subsequent sessions has lasted longer than 10 minutes.
That meeting--in December--lasted 65 minutes, during which the council gave a $1,000-a-month pay raise to both the city clerk and city treasurer and a $400-a-month raise to the city attorney for their work with the finance authority.
Seven meetings since then have lasted a total of 30 minutes, and only these items were on the agendas:
A prayer led by a local minister.
The Pledge of Allegiance.
Approval of the previous week's minutes.
Audience and board comments, of which there were none.
"There is no reason for a meeting every week," Councilman Maxcy D. Filer said in an interview Monday. When the bond issue was approved last November, Filer was the lone council member to vote against accepting compensation for the finance authority sessions, which are held before the council's regular weekly meeting. "I think we should have the authority meet once a quarter."
The council members also receive $100 a week for their regular meeting plus another $100 a week for serving as the Urban Community Development Commission, which oversees the city's separate Redevelopment Agency.
Those meetings usually last a combined three to five hours and the agenda is accompanied by a large packet of research that council members are encouraged to read in advance.
City Manager James C. Goins said establishment of a finance authority is allowed by the state for cities wishing to do certain types of municipal fund raising. Compton officials said the authority gives them more flexibility in managing the city's revenues.
The $40-million redevelopment bond was floated in part to channel $6.6 million into Compton's general operating accounts, where the city had been facing a $3-million budget deficit. Filer and other critics have said the city would not have gotten into its financial mess if it had been more careful in its spending.
Redevelopment Agency Director Laurence H. Adams had originally suggested that the authority meet every other week. But the council tossed aside that suggestion and decided to convene authority meetings weekly.
"I'm not going to say it was because of the money, but inferences can be made," Filer said. He said he gives his $100 to charity.
"Why should I give it back to the city when they are just going to spend it on something else?" Filer said.
All 12 meetings have been attended by Filer, Councilwoman Jane D. Robbins and Mayor Walter R. Tucker, according to city records. All told, the meetings lasted a combined 4 hours and 35 minutes, which means that the $1,200 each was paid is equivalent to $261 an hour. Councilman Robert L. Adams has attended 10 meetings ($229 an hour), and Councilman Floyd A. James has attended eight ($189 an hour).
Robbins said she has no objection to taking the money because she said a lot of unpaid time was spent by the council researching the authority before its inception. But, she said, perhaps the need for weekly meetings has passed. Robbins said she likes Filer's idea of limiting finance authority meetings to once every three months.
"Maybe that would be a better situation because of the lack of business taking place," Robbins said.
Councilman Adams said he would have no problem if the authority's meeting schedule was reduced. "It seems that after the bonds got issued, the agenda all of a sudden got cleared," he said.
Tucker and James did not return calls for comment this week.