Inglewood Mayor James Butts is a member of the Board of Directors of LA County Metropolitan Transit Authority (LACMTA). As a member of the board he either approves or denies contracts with vendors wishing to do business with LACMTA aka Metro. Some of those same contractors are now working on various projects in the city of Inglewood. Two of the most prominent companies are The Robert Group and BYD, an electric bus manufacturer.
The Robert Group (TRG), run by Christine Roberts, whose family used to own F&M Market on Van Ness, has been charged with multiple high-profile projects in Inglewood. TRG has received many contracts from Metro to support the expansion of their rail system and as a result she coordinates/creates “community groups” to drum up support. She is now working on West Hollywood so they can support expansion of the Crenshaw/LAX line into Weho and she’s the paid mouthpiece for Steve Ballmer’s proposed Clippers arena project in Inglewood.
TRG worked with developer Wilson Meaney to select current school board member D’artagnan Scorza to be the face of the NFL petition that circulated successfully in the city back in 2015. Although the project included CEQA exemptions, now being sought by the Clippers project, Scorza has publicly objected to Clippers arena, citing CEQA and launched a campaign to get rent control on the ballot, although the biggest contributing factor to rent increases in the city are attributed to his getting the NFL back in the Los Angeles region.
TRG was also tasked with creating a parking plan for Inglewood that has failed miserably. The city awarded another contract to Willadan Engineering and Pacifica Services but somehow managed to keep TRG as a subcontractor. If TRG couldn’t deliver as the primary, what can they add to the new vendor? TRG was also installed on the Inglewood Airport Area’s Chamber of Commerce (IAACC) without the support of the new board. Pacifica Services also has a sketchy professional past involving excessive billing to the Central Basin Water District and also giving gifts to the former Manager of Central Basin in exchange for securing lucrative contracts in order to over bill the agency. Why would the Mayor want to work with such a troubled company?
2UrbanGirls received a scathing letter to the editor about allegations of theft by former IAACC Executive Director and Inglewood Planning Commissioner Erick Holly. Chamber insiders shared with 2UrbanGirls that his theft came to light after his office failed to host their annual Golf Classic. A contributor wanted their money back but Holly spent it. Apparently the chamber was broke every year with no less than $300 in its bank account at year’s end, despite the influx of new members.
As outlined in Marc Little’s lawsuit, the Mayor summoned the IAACC board members to City Hall and was apparently blindsided to learn of Holly’s theft. Instead of supporting their decision to fire him, he threatened them to return Holly back to his position.
Former city of Maywood Mayor/Councilman Sam Pena is now serving in the capacity of Executive Vice-President and Holly is now a deputy. Pena was caught in the middle of the city of Bell issues when his council tried to have Bell take over some city services and exhausted all of the city’s financial reserves. Another unscrupulous person the Mayor should be steering clear of.
Mayor Butts also had a company infuse $50,000 into the chamber’s coffers to keep them afloat. Enter Chinese based electric bus manufacturer, BYD, who made the deposit.
Last July BYD was awarded a contract for 60 busses by Metro for the Silver Line that was introduced by Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA County Supervisor Kathryn Berger and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia had “hard conflicts” that prevented them from voting on the matter.
At the Metro Board’s regularly scheduled meeting held July 27, 2017, contracts for both BYD and New Flyer of America were approved. The contract that went to New Flyer of America was a contentious item, as three members wanted to give the contract to BYD. The motion failed and Mayor Butts was absent for the votes pertaining to New Flyer of America.
A contract was approved to purchase 35 60-foot articulated zero emission buses from New Flyer to be used on the Orange Line. Staff report. The vote was 7 to 3; attached was a motion calling for Metro to negotiate a local hire program with New Flyer. This was a contentious item, wit Board Members Janice Hahn, Ara Najarian and Hilda Solis supporting a motion calling for giving the contract to BYD. Staff and Board Members supporting New Flyer argued that firm’s technical merits were stronger.
Now why would a company, with no ties to the city of Inglewood, except for a Metro Board member, put such a substantial amount of money into the Inglewood Chamber of Commerce?
Perhaps favor on future Metro contract votes, when the board has to choose between BYD and New Flyer of America?