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Fregeau Sworn In as Cudahy Council Squabbling Ends

February 09, 1989|LEE HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

CUDAHY — Squabbling City Council factions say they have decided to settle their differences.

As a sign of unity, the council Monday unanimously approved the appointment of Joseph R. Fregeau as a councilman to replace Gabriel P. Zippi, who died of bone cancer last month.

The council, which had been divided over the last several months, voted 4-0 to appoint Fregeau.

Without any public debate, Mayor Wilfred Colon and council members John Robertson, Joseph Graffio and Thomas Thurman voted for Fregeau to fill the remainder of Zippi's term, which expires in April, 1992.

Time was running out for action from the council, which by law had 30 days after Zippi's death Jan. 10 to appoint a successor or call a special election. An election would have cost an estimated $15,000 to $20,000.

Fregeau describes himself as an independent, willing to listen to other council members' views.

'Not Going to Fight'

"I'm not going on the council to fight anyone. I'm not aligning myself with any group. I will insist that the council start doing something positive," Fregeau said.

In another apparent move toward harmony, the council, acting as the city Redevelopment Agency, agreed to hold a public hearing on a request to lease a city-owned industrial building to a nonprofit organization that wants to sponsor bingo games. The building, at 7810 Otis Ave., now houses the Cudahy Social Service Agency, which would benefit from the bingo games.

In a session before the council meeting, the agency voted 3-0 to conduct a public hearing March 6 on whether to lease the building to the nonprofit organization headed by a casino owner from Compton. Thurman was not present for the Redevelopment Agency meeting.

The council has been divided the last several months over issues involving the financially troubled Social Service Agency.

Zippi's Last Vote

Zippi made his last council appearance at an Oct. 2 meeting to vote 3-2 with the majority to stop funding the agency after auditors criticized its financial control system. The city had contributed $130,000 to the agency since 1986 and had earmarked $50,000 for the 1988-89 fiscal year before cutting off funding.

After the Oct. 2 vote, Graffio and Robertson were targeted for recall by supporters of the agency, a nonprofit organization that distributes food and clothing to the needy. The recall attempt was led by Michael Rodriguez, who is one of the agency's directors and its secretary. To force a recall election, the group needed to gather signatures of 25% of the city's 3,348 registered voters.

Robertson had accused Colon, a strong supporter of the Social Service Agency, of being behind the recall. Colon denied it. Colon did acknowledge that Rodriguez had asked him how to start a recall and that he had advised Rodriguez on what to do.

Robertson says that the recall attempt has been thwarted because of a campaign he and Graffio started asking residents who signed the recall petition to sign another document revoking their signatures for a recall.

Robertson said he also believes the recall supporters will drop the attempt when they see that the council "is trying to make peace."

Rodriguez, who has until Friday to turn in the needed signatures, could not be reached for comment.

Squabbling to End

However, Colon said he would talk to Rodriguez and "if (Rodriguez) sees these grievances are to be settled, he might drop it."

In any case, Graffio, Thurman, Colon and Robertson said in interviews that they believe it is time to end the council squabbling and start paying attention to city business.

Colon and Robertson said they started talking to each other a couple of weeks ago about making peace.

Both Colon and Robertson said they saw Fregeau as a focal point for the peacemaking efforts. Graffio had always favored appointing Fregeau, 70, who ran for the council three times and was on the city's planning and park commissions.

Thurman said in an interview he decided to support Fregeau after considering "the tremendous financial burden" a number of elections would place on the city.

"There would be a special election for councilman, and if the recall was successful there would be another election, and we have a regular scheduled election next year," Thurman said.

Robertson said he thinks Fregeau is a good choice.

Colon said he still favors an election but on Monday, when he saw Fregeau had the backing of the others, he voted because the new councilman could "act as a catalyst to simmer down the confusion and squabbling."

For his part, Fregeau said, "I'm surprised at the (unanimous) vote."

Fregeau was sworn in by City Clerk Ebbie Mouton after the council's vote and immediately took his seat on the council. He abstained from voting on most of the council agenda items, however, explaining in an interview that he would take some time to familiarize himself with the issues before he voted.

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