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Ex-Councilwoman Woods Is Given Part-Time City Job : Government: Liaison position allows her to keep health insurance coverage for her and her sick husband. Some have complained that other candidates were not recruited.

July 22, 1993|EMILY ADAMS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

COMPTON — Former City Councilwoman Bernice Woods, who lost her bid for reelection last month, has been given a part-time city job that will allow her to continue receiving health insurance coverage through the city.

On her last day on the council June 30, Woods was hired as a liaison to represent the council at community events and help coordinate city participation in community programs.

City Manger Howard Caldwell said he decided to give Woods the part-time job, which pays about $25,000 a year, so that she and her husband would remain eligible for health insurance coverage through the city and eventually would qualify for benefits after retirement. Woods' husband, Melvin, has been ill for some time with cancer.

Caldwell said Woods has been active in the community for decades. "She was qualified for the job," he said. "And you have to look at the human side of enterprise, as well."

City officials must work five years to qualify for health and pension benefits after retirement. The city pays up to $469 per month for an employee's health insurance, said personnel director Sally Whited-Taylor. Employees also must be at least 50 years old to receive retirement benefits. Woods, 69, served four years on the council, but was denied a second term when she lost to Yvonne Arceneaux.

Arceneaux said people have been calling her to complain about the decision. "They thought they had voted Ms. Woods out of office," she said.

Arceneaux said Caldwell told her that he planned to hire Woods, and that she agreed not to oppose the decision.

"I told Mr. Caldwell that I felt this position should have gone through the merit system--that we should have recruited candidates," Arceneaux said. "He said it would look good for me to show a little compassion, that I didn't want to be the one to deny this woman, with a very ill husband, health benefits."

Mayor Omar Bradley said he supported Caldwell's decision. Woods "has all the qualifications to do this job," he said.

Bradley said he originally had asked for five full-time community liaisons, one for each council member. Budget restraints precluded filling the positions, Bradley said, but Caldwell found the money to fund one part-time position.

Because the position is part time, the city was not required to post announcements about the job, conduct examinations or create an eligibility list, said Whited-Taylor, the personnel director.

Woods did not return telephone calls.

Prior to her term on the City Council, Woods was a member of the Compton Unified School District board for 12 years. Board members do not receive retirement or health benefits after departing, however.

Woods filed a workers' compensation claim against the district in 1986. She contended that she should receive lifetime medical coverage because the tension surrounding her school board position had left her psychologically disabled.

An administrative judge rejected her psychological disability claim, but awarded her $30,327, plus a weekly payment of $26.65, for injuries she suffered after falling down a flight of steps on district property in 1984.

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