Raises for Compton mayor, council will go before voters
Officials OK ballot measure to amend city charter, but critics assail the process.
After a rancorous special meeting Wednesday, Compton city officials voted to let residents decide in November whether some of them deserve a pay raise.
The City Council met during what is supposed to be a vacation period. It was far from relaxing.
While three of the council members — Isaac Galvan, Janna Zurita and Tana McCoy — supported the proposal, Mayor Aja Brown and Councilwoman Emma Sharif opposed the measure.
If the measure prevails on Nov. 7 and the city’s charter is changed, City Council members would be eligible to be paid the median household income of Compton, which is $43,507 a year.
Currently, City Council members and the mayor are paid a salary of $600 a month, or $7,200 a year.
The mayor’s salary would also increase to 25% higher than the council, or $54,384.
The city clerk’s office said that the estimated cost of the election would be $107,000 and that there was no appropriation in the budget for the expense.
In 2015, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office found that the members of the Compton City Council had been illegally boosting their salaries for years by paying themselves for commission meetings that sometimes lasted only about a minute. This was a catalyst for raising the salaries of city officials.
Brown called the city charter outdated because when it set salaries decades ago it did not account for inflation or cost-of-living increases. But she said it was not appropriate to use a special session in August to decide how the document should be changed. Sharif and Brown called for an ad hoc commission that would recommend changes to the city charter.
“I’m not saying this shouldn’t be addressed…. Let’s upgrade the entire city charter to where we want it to be in the future,” Brown said.
She added that city leaders should focus on improving services for residents.
“My first priority is meeting with the departments to make sure they could provide services for my constituents,” Brown said. “I can’t understand why this [raising salaries] is a priority.”
Many residents who spoke during the meeting also complained that the council was putting its own pay above the needs of residents.
“What happened to service above self?” Benjamin Holifield of the Compton Business Chamber of Commerce asked.
Holifield called the restoration and improvement of Compton Boulevard his “passion” but said, “There’s been no changes, and you want more money.”
Several residents also said that they did not necessarily disagree with the idea of raises but decried how it was being enacted.
“There has been no communication to the community whatsoever,” resident Susan Adams said.
Zurita, who was the first to request the raise, said she had tried for months to get the council to consider the move.
“Everything we do on a regular basis deserves compensation,” she said. “You want to talk about a Tuesday night job. This is a Monday-through-Sunday job.”
THE L.A. COUNTY district attorney in 2015 said Compton officials were illegally boosting their pay for years, spurring a push to raise their $7,200 annual salaries.