Car­son of­fi­cial: Tur­moil may risk NFL plan

City clerk, who is an ex-mayor and sta­dium backer, says present mayor is cor­rupt.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Nathan Fenno and Richard Win­ton

The day af­ter a chaotic Car­son City Coun­cil meet­ing that in­cluded al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and threats of lit­i­ga­tion, one of the most vo­cal pro­po­nents of the city’s pro­posed $1.7-bil­lion pro­fes­sional football sta­dium said toxic pol­i­tics could un­der­mine the pro­ject.

“This could jeop­ar­dize an NFL sta­dium be­ing built here,” said Jim Dear, mayor of Car­son for more than a decade be­fore step­ping down in March af­ter be­ing elected city clerk.

Though Car­son’s City Coun­cil unan­i­mously ap­proved a bal­lot ini­tia­tive in April to move for­ward with the pro­posal, the dis­cord casts the city in an un­wel­come light in the midst of the com­pe­ti­tion to re­turn the NFL to Los An­ge­les.

Dear’s com­ments came less than 24 hours af­ter his

out­burst at Tues­day’s City Coun­cil meet­ing in a dis­pute stem­ming from un­counted bal­lots cast in the June 2 elec­tion to fill one of two va­cant coun­cil seats.

Dur­ing the meet­ing, Mayor Al­bert Robles led an un­ex­pected ef­fort that ap­pointed Jawane Hil­ton, a lo­cal pas­tor, to the coun­cil for the seat Robles va­cated in April to be­come mayor.

One of the three coun­cil mem­bers, El­ito San­ta­rina, walked out in protest and ac­cu­sa­tions flew be­tween Robles and Dear.

Over the week­end, Dear, ac­com­pa­nied by two sher­iff ’s deputies, changed the com­bi­na­tion to the safe in City Hall where the bal­lots re­side. Robles ex­pressed sus­pi­cion while Dear said the com­bi­na­tion hadn’t been changed since the 1990s.

As the con­fronta­tion at the meet­ing con­tin­ued, Dear shouted and strut­ted around coun­cil cham­bers.

“I’m go­ing to an­swer the false ac­cu­sa­tions and lies that this cor­rupt lit­tle Al Robles has brought,” Dear said.

Dear promised a law­suit. He called for­mer Car­son Mayor Vera DeWitt, a long­time ad­ver­sary, “Vera the evil DeWitch.” He threat­ened to em­bar­rass Robles.

“There’s a lot more I know about your back­ground that will be re­vealed in due time,” Dear said. “The peo­ple of Car­son will not put up with this tom­fool­ery.”

On­look­ers booed. Dear later stormed out of the meet­ing and didn’t re­turn.

“I’ve seen a lot of stuff, but I’ve never seen any­thing like that,” Robles said Wed­nes­day. “I was em­bar­rassed for our city and just dis­ap­pointed.”

In an in­ter­view, Dear said Robles’ ac­tions en­dan­gered the sta­dium for “po­lit­i­cal gain.”

“It is hor­ri­ble for our im­age,” said Dear, who more than quin­tu­pled his $22,000 salary as mayor by mov­ing to clerk. “They are be­hav­ing as though the NFL deal is dead for Car­son. I think we have a chance but they are dam­ag­ing our chances by their be­hav­ior. They are show­ing the NFL and the world that Car­son is ram­pant with cor­rup­tion. Which football team own­er­ship builds a sta­dium in a city with cor­rupt coun­cil mem­bers?”

While the histri­on­ics con­vey a sense of Car­son’s frac­tious po­lit­i­cal land­scape, they’re un­likely to have any prac­ti­cal ef­fect on the sta­dium pro­ject that’s rac­ing ahead. Dear joined four other mem­bers of a city au­thor­ity over­see­ing the sta­dium site in ap­prov­ing a $180,000 con­tract with a con­sul­tant Tues­day to over­see its en­vi­ron­men­tal re­me­di­a­tion. It’s one more step to­ward build­ing a 70,000-seat sta­dium.

The San Diego Charg­ers and Oak­land Raiders, who would share the pri­vately fi­nanced sta­dium, have agreed to re­im­burse Car­son for all ex­penses con­nected to the ef­fort.

Dear had pre­vi­ously been ef­fu­sive in his public sup­port of the deal. Robles said the po­lit­i­cal tur­moil is of “no con­se­quence” to the deal.

“He’s try­ing to cre­ate the per­cep­tion that if the NFL de­cides not to come to Car­son, that it’s be­cause of this po­lit­i­cal tur­moil and there­fore, as the mayor, I would be re­spon­si­ble for it,” said Robles.

“We’re look­ing into ways to cir­cum­vent the city clerk be­cause he will not hold the city of Car­son, its res­i­dents or the pro­ject hostage for his own po­lit­i­cal gains. This pro­ject is go­ing to pro­ceed.”

Mark Fabi­ani, point man on sta­dium is­sues for the Charg­ers, said the mat­ter is an “in­ter­nal is­sue” in Car­son.

“We don’t an­tic­i­pate that the dis­pute will im­pact our progress there,” he said.

But a so­lu­tion doesn’t ap­pear to be at hand. Dear said Tues­day’s move is de­signed to al­low Robles to fill the fi­nal va­cant seat in the five-mem­ber coun­cil, avoid an elec­tion and con­trol the panel.

Faced with what the Robles-led coun­cil saw as re­peated de­lays in cer­ti­fy­ing Hil­ton as the win­ner of the June elec­tion, two of the three mem­bers voted last week to hire a for­mer Comp­ton city clerk to com­plete the count.

Dear, who had been at­tend­ing a con­fer­ence in River­side last week, re­sponded to the move with a plan to seek an in­junc­tion to block the count. That led to Robles’ end-around dur­ing Tues­day’s meet­ing by ap­point­ing Hil­ton to the sec­ond va­cant seat rather than wait­ing for the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of his elec­tion.

Hil­ton, who leads the June 2 elec­tion by 18 votes pend­ing a hand re­count next week, blamed the ver­bal spar­ring on Dear try­ing to run the city from the clerk’s of­fice.

“This is Jim Dear los­ing his power,” Hil­ton said. “It’s a new day in Car­son and he’s not ex­cited about it. … We’re go­ing to look bet­ter be­cause he is not lead­ing our city.”

Dear, how­ever, doesn’t think the coun­cil had a quo­rum to ap­point Hil­ton — only two mem­bers re­mained af­ter San­ta­rina de­parted — and plans to sue.

Robles is up­set by the en­tire sit­u­a­tion.

“Why [Dear] in­sists on post­pon­ing, on de­lay­ing the in­evitable is be­yond my com­pre­hen­sion,” he said. “It makes ab­so­lutely no sense.”

On Tues­day, the pol­i­tick­ing didn’t end when Dear left the coun­cil cham­bers.

Long af­ter the de­par­ture, Coun­cil­woman Lula Dav­isHolmes pro­posed re­mov­ing Dear’s name from the boule­vard that runs through the 157-acre for­mer land­fill where the sta­dium would sit. Dear spear­headed an ef­fort to re­name the street af­ter him­self in 2011. Davis-Holmes wants the name erased.

Ap­plause filled the room.

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