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After Raucous Meeting, Compton Officials Back at Work

March 06, 2003|Daniel Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

A day after a Compton City Council meeting dissolved into a shoving match between supporters of two feuding political factions, city officials and activists on Wednesday called on residents to come together as the community deals with allegations of political corruption.

The volatile meeting was the first since the Los Angeles County district attorney's office on Monday filed charges against a majority of the City Council as well as the city manager and the ex-mayor for allegedly misusing public funds.

"We need more emotional stability and calm to deal with the issues," said High Vines, a longtime Compton resident.

At Tuesday night's meeting, two men known to be friends of Mayor Eric Perrodin and Councilwoman Delores Zurita were pulled apart after a brief scuffle, which quickly spread through the chambers and eventually poured outside. No one was injured or taken into custody.

Zurita is one of five current and former Compton officials indicted. Sources familiar with the investigation said investigators found evidence that the five misused city credit cards by charging personal expenses including food, limousines, travel and an emergency trip to the dentist.

Zurita released a statement Wednesday denying any wrongdoing and saying the indictments were "political grand-standing.... I, like many citizens of Compton, am opposed to any form of corruption."

The others arrested and later released on bail were Councilwoman Yvonne Arceneaux, Councilman Amen Rahh, City Manager John D. Johnson II and former Mayor Omar Bradley, who remains a dominant figure in Compton politics.

Officials who the night before were breaking up yelling matches sat in their offices in the morning, tending to city business. In the City Hall lobby, one security guard joked, "Next week, we're charging admission."

City Clerk Charles Davis expressed skepticism that the two sides will put aside their differences. "I wish they would get along, but it ain't going to happen," he said.

Davis said the city will look into increasing security for the next meeting, scheduled Tuesday afternoon.

"We're going to change the chambers next week to keep the children in their playpens, because they can't play well together."

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