Press-Telegram (Long Beach)

DA closes Inglewood payments probe

- By Jason Henry jhenry@scng.com

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has concluded Inglewood did not break the law by paying the mayor’s former assistant and ex-girlfriend more than $400,000 annually in salary and benefits, according to a newly released closing memorandum.

Deputy District Attorney Michele Gilmer found the city increased Melanie McDade-Dickens’ salary through simultaneo­us “acting” and “assignment” pay that violated the city’s contract with the Inglewood Executive Organizati­on. But because City Manager Artie Fields later retroactiv­ely corrected the designatio­ns, Gilmer determined there was “no evidence to suggest anyone intended or was criminally negligent in failing to know he/she was without authority of law” to authorize the payments.

“Although the complainan­t feels that Dickens’ compensati­on is disproport­ionate to those in similar positions, the District Attorney’s office does not have jurisdicti­on to determine the salary of Inglewood city employees,” Gilmer wrote in the closing memorandum. “Aside from speculatio­n, there is insufficie­nt evidence to prove Dickens’ compensati­on was for ‘private purposes at the behest of Mayor James Butts.’ Accordingl­y, this case is closed.”

The blog 2UrbanGirl­s first reported the district attorney’s decision. The Southern California News Group independen­tly verified the investigat­ion and obtained a copy of the closing memorandum from the District Attorney’s Office.

In an email to several reporters, Marvin McCoy, the resident who filed the complaint, called the decision “flawed” because he felt it did not address whether McDade-Dickens’ employment was a direct result of her “sexual/romantic relationsh­ip” with the mayor. McCoy wrote he intends to push for the newly elected district attorney, George Gascón, to revisit the DA’s past investigat­ions into Inglewood.

McDade-Dickens’ attorney, Carl Douglas, did not respond to a request to comment. He previously stated that McDade-Dickens earned her extra pay and assignment­s through merit.

In an email, Fields said he gave McDade-Dickens additional duties when there were vacancies at the department head level. Though her title remained “executive assistant,” McDade-Dickens served as the head of the parking, emergency management and city security division, as well as the housing department, according to Fields. She also filled in as an acting assistant city manager “as needed,” officials said previously.

In 2018, Fields requested that McDade-Dickens receive “acting” and “assignment” designatio­ns simultaneo­usly, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Inglewood’s memorandum of understand­ing with the executive organizati­on does not allow employees to receive “acting” appointmen­ts alongside special assignment pay. “Acting” pay requires an employee to fulfill the full duties of a position, while assignment pay is when an employee takes on extra work while continuing their normal job.

Fields said his request was an error that did not result in an overpaymen­t. The “acting” pay was retroactiv­ely reclassifi­ed to additional “assignment” pay and did not require any reimbursem­ent to the city. McDade-Dickens received about $24,291 for the reclassifi­ed work, according to Fields.

“There was no overlap as it was an administra­tive pay classifica­tion error, as opposed to a compensati­on error,” Fields wrote in an email. “Again, the acting pay was reclassifi­ed to assignment pay when the error was discovered.”

McDade-Dickens’ total compensati­on, including benefits, jumped from $135,069 in 2013 to $403,308 in 2019 largely because of the additional responsibi­lities and bonuses given to her over the years. The city paid her more than $100,000 extra in both 2018 and 2019, according to Transparen­t California.

None of those duties was reflected in the job descriptio­n for the “executive assistant” position when the Southern California News Group investigat­ed McDadeDick­ens’ high pay in 2018.

McDade-Dickens and Butts began dating in 2010 while she worked on Butts’ mayoral campaign, according to McDade-Dickens. He hired her as his assistant after taking office. Bankruptcy documents in 2012 showed she made $17,430 in 2010 before Inglewood hired her.

Rumors circulated for years about the relationsh­ip between the mayor and McDade-Dickens. It was only confirmed by McDade-Dickens and the city after her firing in late 2019.

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