Compton mayor Aja Brown, along with council members Janna Zurita, Isaac Galvan, Yvonne Arceneaux, and Emma Sharif, have been padding their salaries, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office alleges, by remunerating themselves for commission meetings that last as little as one minute.
A July 17 letter written by the district attorney’s office stated that officials were paid “whether or not the commission member attended the meeting.” The letter pointed out:
Article 10, sections 1000 and 1001, allow the city council to create by ordinance advisory councils or commission that in its judgment are “required,” and to include in its annual budget “sufficient appropriation of funds for their efficient and proper function.” This does not include the payment of a salary to the mayor or any council member for being a member of any commission. Compton City Charter Article 5, Section 504 is controlling as to the compensation of these individuals. Consequently, “sufficient appropriation of funds for their efficient and proper function” of the commissions does not provide the legal justification of payment of a salary to the mayor and city council members for their membership on these commissions … California Penal Code Section 424 states that any officer of this state, or any county, city, town, or district of this state, and every other person charged with the receipt, safekeeping, transfer or disbursement of public moneys, who without authority of law, appropriates the same, or any p0rtion thereof, to his or her own use, or to the use of another, is guilty of a felony.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Brown received $4,000 a month in addition to her salary of $600 a month; the four council members received an extra $3,400 a month for their participation. The mayor makes $63,000 annually, derived from her monthly council stipend, her presence on four boards and commissions, and her auto allowance. The council members make $55,800 each year, with some receiving an extra $150 a month for the use of their cellphones.
The issue of city officials compensating themselves for such attendance dates back before Brown’s tenure; the Times reported in 2010 that Compton Mayor Eric Perrodin was paid for attending commission meetings, although he was “absent from board and commission meetings nearly two-thirds of the time…The meetings of the highest-paying Compton commissions often lasted the shortest period of time, according to city records. At least 41 commission meetings convened and adjourned in less than 10 minutes.”
A similar, albeit more extravagant, scandal in the nearby City of Bell led to convictions of several city officials.