CUDAHY — Mayor Tom Thurman's colleagues on the City Council fired him halfway through his one-year term of office Wednesday because of what they described as indecisiveness, a lack of leadership and failure to inform the community about major public safety issues.
In a special meeting Wednesday morning, Cudahy Mayor Pro Tem Joseph Graffio voted with Councilmen Joseph Fregeau and John Robertson to oust Thurman. Thurman was not present. Councilman Bill Colon opposed the move.
Graffio replaced Thurman as mayor and Robertson replaced Graffio as mayor pro tem.
Thurman said in an earlier interview he expected the removal but he said he would continue to serve as councilman to the best of his ability.
Selected by Colleagues
"The only thing different now is I don't get to run the meetings," Thurman said.
The mayor is selected by council members and presides over meetings and represents the city at functions.
Council members made no comment during the meeting and refused to hear comments from people in the audience.
When the council refused to let him speak, Richard Kowaltschuk, told the council, "This is a dictatorship. You haven't heard the last of us."
Kowaltschuk and a group called Committee for Good Government are leading a recall attempt against Robertson and Fregeau.
Robertson in a prepared statement distributed after the meeting said Thurman during his six months in office " . . . displayed indecisiveness, a lack of leadership, and a lack of ability to keep our community informed as to the major issues of safety. . . ."
Robertson said in a interview that Thurman showed a lack of leadership when he tried to reopen discussions with the city of Bell after Cudahy had decided to switch its contract for police services from the Bell Police Department to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Thurman voted against the switching the contract. So did Colon. Thurman, a civilian employee of the Sheriff's Department, voted despite a warning from the city attorney that his vote might appear to be a conflict of interest.
Graffio also accused Thurman of being a "mouthpiece of Colon's. Even though Bill Colon is no longer mayor, he is still running the council." Colon served as mayor before Thurman was selected in April, 1989.
Colon denied that he controlled Thurman. "Tom is his own man," Colon said.
"This is a slap in the face for the people who elected Tom not to let him serve out his term," Colon said.
Colon charged that Thurman was being removed because he "disagreed (with the majority of the council) on the police issues."
The majority of the council said they wanted to replace the Bell police contract because the Bell department had been unresponsive to the needs for increased service and the Sheriff's Department will offer more patrol time at a slight increase in costs.
The Sheriff's Department patroled Cudahy from 1960 until the city signed a contract with Bell in 1974.
The Sheriff's Department will provide police services in 90 days when Bell's contract expires.
The council also voted to change its city attorney Wednesday.
The move was done for economic reasons, said Jack Joseph, acting city manager.
Joseph said the city had four firms performing different tasks at an average cost of $200,000 a year. The city will be represented by an attorney from one firm. The firm will also perform all legal duties for the city, Joseph said.
The new city attorney is Glenn Watson. He replaces Richard Laskin.