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Report finds disincorporating Vernon would hurt region's economy

An analysis by fiscal experts hired by the city concludes that disincorporation could cost more than 11,000 jobs and $420 million in wages. An aide to Assembly Speaker John Pérez calls the report 'a flawed study.'

March 04, 2011|By Hector Becerra, Los Angeles Times

A report by fiscal experts hired by the city of Vernon argues that dismantling the small industrial town could cost thousands of jobs and result in millions of lost dollars for the local and state economy.

The analysis, released Thursday by Sacramento-based Capitol Matrix Consulting, said that Assembly Speaker John Pérez's bill to disincorporate the city of roughly 90 residents would hurt businesses in Vernon and deter others from moving there.

The report said that if Vernon's status as a city was eliminated, Southern California could lose more than 11,000 jobs, $42 million in revenue and $420 million in wages a year. Capitol Matrix Consulting also argued that any municipal government taking over Vernon would see its costs ramp up and assume a potentially crushing debt.

Vernon has been arguing that disincorporation would be bad for local business. But backers of Vernon have disagreed, saying they would expect little change in the business climate.

Shannon Murphy, Pérez's deputy chief of staff, called the report "a flawed study that relies on inaccurate assumptions about what will happen when Vernon is disincorporated."

"Vernon's officials are spending an unconscionable amount of taxpayer money to preserve their status quo," she added. "And when they're spending more than $500,000 per month of taxpayer funds to fight disincorporation, any study they produce has to be viewed with deep skepticism."

In recent years, Vernon's history has been punctuated by criminal charges filed against three top officials, including a mayor convicted of voter fraud for lying about living in Vernon for 30 years.

Critics argue that Vernon's leaders run the city like a secretive, corrupt "fiefdom," lavishing officials with some of the highest salaries in the nation, including more than $1 million in successive years for a city attorney turned legal consultant. Pérez said Vernon cannot be reformed from the inside because almost all of its residents are connected to city leaders.

He argued that Vernon officials have unleashed an expensive blitz of lobbyists, lawyers and an advertising campaign to scare people into thinking that disincorporating the city will result in lost jobs.

Vernon officials say that any corruption is a thing of the past, touting their hiring of independent ethics advisors to review the way City Hall operates and to suggest potential changes.

hector.becerra@latimes.com

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