With Inglewood elections months away potential candidates are running into continuous conflicts with either obtaining or returning nomination forms to qualify for the November ballot.
Inglewood City Clerk Aisha Thompson was the current city council’s preferred candidate who was allowed to use city resources to promote herself to residents when she was employed as deputy city clerk to Yvonne Horton, the former city clerk.
Thompson was allowed to send mass robocalls to residents under the guise of alerting them to applying for rent relief where she identified herself as the deputy city clerk. It was also during the pandemic that the deputy city clerk’s name began to appear on weekly council agendas which has never happened in the City’s history.
Of nearly two dozen candidates who pulled nomination forms when the filing period opened July 18, only three candidates were confirmed as qualified for the ballot at the close of business Aug. 9: Mayor James Butts, and Councilpersons George Dotson and Eloy Morales who all voted affirmatively to increase Thompson’s salary less than a year after she was elected.
Due to those three being the only residents qualified for the ballot a public records request was initiated to the office for their nomination papers.
“The forms are not available at this time,” wrote Thompson when responding to the inquiry. The clerk’s office is the sole recordkeeper for such records.
The situation in Inglewood eerily resembles a lawsuit filed by the city clerk in the city of Artesia who claimed he was under duress by members of the council and city manager when their 2020 election cycle came up.
Ernesto Chavez was appointed to the city clerk’s position in the city of Artesia and ultimately filed a lawsuit against the City, its City Manager William Rawlings and Councilpersons Tony Lima, Monica Manalo, and Ali Taj in June 2022. The lawsuit filing came six months after a criminal search warrant landed in Chavez’s office in Jan. 2022 related to previous elections. Chavez was appointed to the position of city clerk.
Chavez’s complaint outlines allegations that Rawlings demanded all communications between the office and potential candidates be “run through him first” which caused a delay in providing nomination forms to two candidates.
According to the complaint, “Rawlings directed Mr. Sanchez to be unavailable and/or unresponsive to potential candidates that were not Tony Lima and Monica Manalo who were already on the City Council”.
In August 2020, Chavez complained to Human Resources about what he described as ” unlawful misconduct and/or directed Mr. Sanchez to engage in potentially unlawful conduct” but was told by the HR Director Boyd Horan that his complaint was to be directed to the city manager. Chavez withdrew the complaint fearing retaliation from Rawlings.
In November 2020, the City changed its policy to allow employees to complain directly to the city attorney as opposed to the city manager which Chavez did.
“In May 2021, Mr. Sanchez went to Contract City Attorney Hong Doa Nguyen, a partner at the law firm Best Best & Krieger LLP, and complained about various issues including but not limited to Rawling’s interference with the aforementioned election, Rawlings’ selective enforcement of certain rules; and Rawlings’ instructions to him to hide or misrepresent certain information to other government agencies and/or government funding agencies. On information and belief, other City employees also raised concerns about Rawlings’ unethical and unlawful conduct with Nguyen around this time.”
“Despite the facts that the complaints were made known to the City Council, the City of Artesia decided against investigating any of the concerns raised by Mr. Sanchez and others about Rawlings. Specifically, defendants and City Councilmembers Tony Lima, Monica Manalo, and Ali Taj voted against an investigation. Instead, the City Council by way of Lima, Manalo, and Taj reversed its November 2020 policy allowing employees to take their complaints to the City Attorney. As a result, the policy reverted to the previous one that required City employees to take all their concerns and complaints to Rawlings, even those that were directly about him.”
Rawlings then proceeded to strip Chavez of his duties and “[Rawlings] continued unabatedly to engage in unlawful misconduct and continued to direct Mr. Sanchez and others to do the same”.
Thompson’s office routinely delays providing public records requests in accordance with the law under both the Freedom of Information and California Public Records Act which have been extensively reported in the media The office also delayed residents in their quest to retrieve nomination forms during scheduled appointment times. She routinely was late for multiple potential candidates. She has also come up with some “last minute” requirement that potential candidates obtain a “live scan” before being placed on the ballot. Multiple candidates have reached out to 2UrbanGirls outraged by the request and we have suggested they file complaints with the District Attorney’s office.
Thompson is aware of the retaliation the council inflicts on City employees and fellow elected officials who try to maintain their independence in the capacity of being an elected official. Thompson had a front row seat to the conflict that arose between long-term treasurer Wanda Brown and the mayor which resulted in her nearly $8000 monthly salary being reduced to $1404 as outlined in the Inglewood Municipal Code (IMC).
Thompson’s salary is the highest of any elected official in Inglewood, including the mayor who is the second highest paid elected official.
According to the IMC code Section 2-277 Thompson’s salary is $1616 per month. According to the most recent salary ordinance approved in Oct. 2021 lists her pay at $9604 per month which includes a 10% raise she received two months prior. The IMC also mandates that City employees resign from their position before running for office and Thompson was allowed to avoid that rule.
Residents fear she is interfering with the election process in exchange for her salary which, if reduced, would render her unable to support herself and her son.
The Los Angeles County Registrar and Recorder’s office confirmed Carlos Munoz has obtained verified signatures from their office which should yield an updated list of who has qualified for the ballot no later than today (Aug. 10). According to the County, any potential candidate which has to obtain additional signatures must have them in to Thompson’s office by close of business this Friday.
The question we all have is will the office be available to the public to receive them.