City loan program proves to be Inglewood Mayor’s downfall

In January, Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn pleaded guilty to a charge of public corruption and was barred from holding public office. Yet, his resignation prompts a look at the patterns of dishonesty and fraud in the history of Inglewood’s city government.

Dorn was involved in the Residence Incentive Program (RIP), a city loan program adopted in Inglewood in 1992. The program provided executive non-elected employees of the city with low-interest mortgages to encourage them to buy homes in Inglewood. Interest rates for these mortgage loans were substantially lower than commercially available rates.

In 2004, Dorn attempted to convince Mark Weinberg, the former city administrator, that the program applied to the mayor as an “executive officer” and that the city should issue him a loan.

Weinberg raised concerns over the legality of the mayor’s request, prompting Dorn to propose a resolution before the city council.

One of Weinberg’s reservations was a lack of public purpose for issuing the loan, given that the Inglewood city charter already required elected officials to live within city limits.

Despite Weinberg’s concerns, the Inglewood City Council, including Dorn, approved the resolution, which was signed into law on June 29, 2004. The resolution expanded the RIP to include “officers of the city as defined in the Inglewood City Charter.” In effect, Dorn created, voted, and approved a law that would give himself a loan.

Five months later, Dorn received a $500,000 loan through the program at an interest rate of 2.39 percent. The loan provisions also stipulated that the rate would never exceed 4.39 percent.

Dorn told the financial officer who prepared his loan that the money would be used to purchase a home for his daughter in Inglewood. Dorn also used the loan to pay off his own mortgage and to open a seven-month, $300,000 Certificate of Deposit that earned him 4.25 percent interest.

This loan, however, became public knowledge when Dorn ran for reelection.

To prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest, Dorn repaid $491,317.05 and led the city council to rescind the resolution.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division began an investigation of Dorn’s activities in 2006, finding him in violation of county code by making a contract in which he had a personal financial interest.

Dorn’s mere involvement with preliminary planning and discussions extending the loan program put him in legal trouble, the District Attorney found.

At the time the RIP was enacted, Weinberg had complete control over who received loans. The idea that Dorn could so easily convince the city council to accommodate his requests called into question the whole system in place at Inglewood City Hall.

Current director of finance in Inglewood, Jeff Muir, consulted with Deputy District attorneys Max Huntsman and Juliet Schmidt on the case. Muir indicated that steps are being taken to ensure a corruption-free financial future for the city. For starters, the elusive credit card program to which Dorn was accustomed for personal expenses has been abolished.

“No elected officials have credit cards currently,” Muir said. “There used to be a reimbursement program for officials after each quarter, but we don’t do that anymore. We now roll any amount like that into compensation for the individual’s services, and it’s not individually done any more.”

To address public concerns, the city is creating an Investment Oversight Committee made up of interested citizens. The committee will meet on a quarterly basis and discuss the treasurer reports for the city, the Inglewood Redevelopment Agency, Inglewood Public Finance Authority, and Housing Authority.

While city council members and elected officials are no longer eligible for the RIP, non-executive employees outside of the city may still apply for a loan.

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