COMPTON — A political action committee has been established to raise money for a recall campaign against Mayor Walter R. Tucker, and organizers say they will serve the mayor with a recall notice at the Oct. 3 City Council meeting.
The Committee to Recall Mayor Walter Tucker was established by Basil Kimbrew, a local activist and a paid political consultant, after the mayor suggested at a Sept. 13 press conference that the city dismantle its Fire and Police departments and contract with Los Angeles County for those services.
The mayor, citing the city's poor financial health, said Compton could no longer afford its own Police and Fire departments and that the county could provide the same level of public safety service at a lower cost. Tucker's suggestion drew angry responses from firefighters and police officers, some of whom are talking about joining the recall effort.
Tucker Says He's Not Worried
Tucker said last week that he is not worried about the talk of recall and accused Councilwoman Patricia Moore of being behind it. "Her stooges, her cronies," are organizing the recall effort, he said. "She's in it as thick as I don't know what."
Kimbrew managed Moore's successful campaign this spring to oust incumbent Councilman Floyd James. Kimbrew also managed the unsuccessful campaign of Tucker's opponent in the mayoral runoff election in June. Tucker, a 64-year-old dentist, was elected to his third mayoral term, garnering more than 60% of the vote .
Moore denied having anything to do with the recall effort. "That's giving me an awful lot of credit and influence," she said.
Kimbrew also denied that Moore was involved. He said he and Benjamin Holifield, his partner in the recall effort, will be joined Tuesday or Wednesday by a host of other Compton residents at a press conference to launch the recall campaign.
Kimbrew said the group is seeking to recall Tucker because the mayor lied during the election campaign by insisting that the city was financially sound. At the time, some city officials were acknowledging privately that there would be a severe budget crunch this year.
City Administration in Turmoil
After the June election, when the council faced the task of putting together a new budget, it became clear that the city was in poor financial health. About 100 employees were laid off, the city's ambulance service was abolished, and some police and fire officers were demoted. City Manager James Goins also was abruptly fired by the council.
Tucker said this week that he did not know at the time of his reelection campaign that the city was financially strapped. "Staff said there wasn't anything wrong," Tucker said, insisting that it is the city manager's job to prepare the budget.
Once the city clerk certifies a recall notice, proponents would have 120 days to gather about 8,000 signatures on petitions asking the council to hold an election.
Kimbrew insisted that he had no candidates in mind to replace Tucker if the recall is successful. Moore said: "I have not envisioned being anything else but a good council person."
The recall effort, Kimbrew said, will be built around a group called Concerned Citizens of Compton. Kimbrew and Holifield, a local businessman who was an unsuccessful candidate in this year's City Council elections, organized the group this summer. They claim to have about 120 members.
Police in particular are likely to play an active role if there is a recall election to oust the mayor.
"He's attacked us job-wise and we don't think he has any foundation to be talking like he's talking," said Marvin Branscomb, president of the Compton Peace Officers Assn. "He hasn't done his homework," said Branscomb, referring to the mayor's assertion that the city could get the same level of service if it dissolved its Police Department and contracted with the county sheriff.
Though the police union has not formally addressed the recall issue, Branscomb said, he believes many of his members would be heavily involved in a recall campaign. "I can see some of our officers carrying petitions," Branscomb said.
Eli Curtis, head of the firefighters union, said its executive board had instructed him not to make public statements about the mayor's remarks.
Fire Department ranks are split on the issue of a county takeover. Many older firefighters who also hold command positions in the department are worried that the county would not absorb them into its ranks. Younger firefighters, many of whom eventually shift to the county department, are not as worried, according to Compton Fire Department sources.
However, one longtime Compton firefighter said he expects his union to contribute time and money to any recall effort. "Face it," said the firefighter, who asked not to be named, "this guy doesn't want us around, so, we don't want him around. That's the bottom line."
Mayor Walter R. Tucker of Compton as he took part in a session of the City Council last year.