COMPTON — A long, bitter political season erupted with fresh attacks this week as three members of the Compton City Council were served with recall papers and charged with creating discord at city meetings.
The notices of intent to recall accuse council members Bernice Woods, Omar Bradley and Jane D. Robbins of undermining the mayor, meeting in closed session to discourage public debate and attempting to bring gambling into the city.
The recall, generated by Citizens for Accountable Government, appears to be the latest round in a feud between the council majority and Mayor Walter R. Tucker III. Although Tucker denied direct involvement in the campaign, he said his brother Kenneth, who plans to run for Woods' council seat in the April election, supports the recalls.
"I told (the citizens group) I will help them out with the recall effort and lend my support any way I can," Kenneth Tucker said.
"It's an election year, and many people have decided that, since they have no platform, they will run on negativity," Bradley said during a break in Tuesday's council meeting. "But the same people who try to destroy an honest man will themselves be destroyed."
The notice of intent handed to Woods, Bradley and Robbins on Tuesday is the first step toward recalling a council member. The citizens group must collect about 8,000 signatures--15% of Compton's registered voters--before the issue would be put on the ballot.
"Recalls have been tried once or twice, but in the 20 years I've been here, nobody has successfully gotten through the signature process," City Clerk Charles Davis said.
Of the three targeted for recall, Robbins is the only member who did not expect to campaign for the April election. Woods' term is up and Bradley has announced that he will run for mayor.
Robbins could not be reached for comment.
"I'm not paying any attention to that recall," Woods said Wednesday. "That's all in God's hands."
Although candidates will not file their intentions until January, Councilwoman Patricia A. Moore, often allied with Walter Tucker, has also indicated that she will run for mayor when Tucker leaves his position in January. Tucker is the Democratic candidate for the 37th Congressional District, where he is virtually assured of victory next month. His only opposition is B. Kwaku Duren of the Peace and Freedom Party.
The friction between council members has been apparent since the April riots. When state and national leaders visited the riot areas, Tucker held press conferences with them and later held press briefings on a gang truce and a job training center. Shortly afterward, the council majority voted to prohibit the mayor from holding press conferences unless other council members were invited.
As divisions on the council grew, meetings often erupted in shouting, with members accusing each other of everything from pandering to special interests to base immorality.
The recall notices charge Bradley, Woods and Robbins--referred to as the "Compton Three"--with creating "continuous discord during the council meetings, embarrassing the citizens of Compton on public television and disrespect for the chairman of the meetings."
"Our group was inactive for a long time," said Ethel Miree, of the citizens group. "But we got active again when we saw the council had no agreements at all, so they couldn't get anything done." Miree said her group will begin collecting signatures next week.
The most volatile issue raised by the recall, however, is likely to be the charge that the council majority has conspired to bring gambling into the city without a vote of the citizens.
Woods, Robbins and Bradley have all indicated their support of a developer who wants to buy seven acres in the city's near-empty auto mall to build a $9-million entertainment center. The centerpiece of the complex would be a card casino, which developers say would bring $10 million in revenue to the city annually.
Compton, as do many cities, needs money, but the proposal has met with serious resistance from citizens who fear that crime and widespread godlessness would follow the casino into their city. A public hearing on the issue has been scheduled at 6 p.m. Nov. 12 in the City Council chambers.
"I guess I expected them to try and recall me," Bradley said, "but I'm saddened that it's over this issue. But I've still got to do what I think is best for Compton."