Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts has a reputation for being calculating and vindictive when he doesn’t get his way. A slew of Inglewood employees are no longer in the employ of the city due to their refusal to cowtow to the mayor’s wishes. Butts wields absolute authority over city hall and because he was in his feelings during the August 18 city council meeting, he went too far in detailing how he exacts revenge upon those who go against him.
The relationship between Butts and Treasurer Wanda Brown has deteriorated since January of this year. Brown confronted the council and City Manager Artie Fields when City Hall reopened after the annual two week holiday closure.
Her issues with the city related to its finances: a first-time homebuyer program that placed a current city employee in the #1 position and a financial review of the city’s pension liability by Sen. John Moorlach.
As Brown began to use her allotted time on council agendas for remarks that stopped being favorable to the mayor, he reduced her time to speak. When that didn’t work he removed her remarks from the council agenda in its entirety. When that didn’t work, he deactivated her badge and cut her access to the 9th floor. When she had other city employees use their badge to get her access to the 9th floor, he deactivated that access from all city employees badges.
When that didn’t work, community members urged Brown to use public comment to make her remarks which she now has to do from Community Room A. She uses three minutes at the top of the council meeting and one minute before closing remarks by the council.
The August 18 council meeting was no different until Brown made a comment about Butts’ daughter. This enraged him.
Butts used his closing remarks to state that Brown stopped heaping “praise” and recognition on him and the council and what the public learned was her “praise” came at a price.
Prior to Butts being sworn in as mayor in January 2011, the previous city council adopted a salary ordinance on October 5, 2010, that listed the following salaries:
- City Clerk Yvonne Horton – $7398 per month
- City Treasurer Wanda Brown – $5404 per month
The approved salary ordinance dated March 26, 2019, listed their salaries as:
- City Clerk Yvonne Horton – $8694 per month
- City Treasurer Wanda Brown – $7949 per month
A review of both ordinances details the “additional duties” described by Butts during the August 18 council meeting that he was going to “review” and remove from the treasurer to reduce her salary to $1404 per month.
According to the salary ordinance Brown holds the same duties since 2010, before Butts’ arrival as mayor. In fact, the only duty that has been removed, which didn’t affect her salary negatively, was she no longer has to attend Permits & Licensing Committee meetings on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month.
Bestowing “pay for praise” is nothing new for Butts. It was noted by State Controller Betty Yee’s office that the city gave executives over $700,000 in bonuses at taxpayers expense and he gave his former girlfriend Melanie McDade a salary in excess of $320,000 at the time of her departure from city hall on July 1, 2019. The city was unable to produce any documentation supporting those bonuses.
Mayor Butts uses taxpayer money, to buy favor from city hall staff and elected officials. Had District Attorney Jackie Lacey put their friendship aside, Inglewood taxpayers money would be safeguarded against such abuse.
It remains unclear if Mayor Butts has the authority to reduce the clerk and treasurer’s salary’s to any level less than when he was sworn in, but it sets a dangerous precedent that he can award additional compensation, to elected officials, and not the taxpayers that voted for them.
This will be a question for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit to answer. Both the salaries of the city clerk AND the treasurer should be reviewed and an opinion should be provided on whether the city council has the authority to raise the salaries of elected officials.
Case precedent was established in August 2015 when the DA weighed in on the city of Compton establishing additional pay for themselves, by sitting on additional meetings. The DA threatened to prosecute them for felony’s if they didn’t reduce their salaries back to their regular $600 monthly stipend.
in 1996 Inglewood voters passed Measure Y to increase the salaries of the mayor and members of the council, however, City Clerk Yvonne Horton has destroyed the measures language, so that the public could learn whether the clerk and treasurer were allowed increases by vote of the council and not the taxpayers. If no document exists to corroborate the council having the authority to award raises, should they be allowed to?
Melanie McDade’s lawsuit details the same complaints that Butts said, in his own words, that he punishes those who go against him. He removes additional duties, and their accompanying pay, as punishment. In McDade’s case, she broke up with him and paid the ultimate price: her job.