New jobs at Inglewood City Hall despite hiring freeze

Since calling for a hiring freeze in early February to help close a $10 million budget gap, the Inglewood City Council has approved the hiring of 21 new employees at a cost of nearly $2 million.

The new hires include four in the planning department, two in the city clerk’s office, four in the police department, nine in the parks and recreation department and two in residential sound institution.

The salaries and benefits for the new hires will add a cost of nearly $2 million to the city’s $324 million budget. Three of the positions are described as part-time, and seven are temporary.

During the hiring freeze, each new position must be approved by the city council, an additional step in the hiring process.

Councilwoman Judy Dunlap said each hire is examined closely and that all of the hires the council has approved since the freeze went into effect are crucial to providing key city services.

“We are looking at tremendous cuts and expenditures,” said Dunlap. “We strongly consider these things when we’re looking at hirings.”

The jobs deemed most crucial after the council approved the freeze were those in the city clerk’s office, which have been filled.

In her request for the city council’s approval of new hires for her office, City Clerk Yvonne Horton anticipated six elections taking place in Inglewood between June 2010 and June 2011, half of them runoff elections. Horton told the council that the positions “will allow the City Clerk’s office to provide excellent service to the community.”

The city budget allots less than $600,000 to the city clerk’s office. The two new hires will cost $161,000 combined.

Ed Maddox, public information officer for Inglewood, said other jobs, such as those needing to be filled in the planning department, are handled on a “case-by-case” basis. Some requests were made before the Feb. 2 hiring freeze gained approval, complicating the approval process.

In the planning department, lack of adequate staffing has delayed plans to convert Hollywood Park into a housing and business development, according to city staff.

Council Member Ralph Franklin said the planning department jobs are a catalyst for future job opportunities.

“By hiring planners, we stimulate the job market with these projects that allow for more jobs to be created,” Franklin said. “The money is recycled back into the city.”

Dunlap said the city council is still in the process of completely providing permission for each department to choose final job candidates. She said the city council should be presented with a new list of prospective planning department employees within the next two weeks.

More from Inglewood City Hall:

Inglewood City Administrator Tim Wanamaker Resigns

imageFor two months, Inglewood has been without an official mayor. Now the city is also without its lead manager. Inglewood City Administrator Tim Wanamaker abruptly resigned Wednesday, about a month before hitting his two-year mark in office, and ended his service to the city and its residents the following day. The reason for Wanamaker’s departure is still unclear.

At the city council meeting March 9, Councilwoman Judy Dunlap fired off a list of demands at Wanamaker. Less than two weeks later, he was through taking orders.

Wanamaker admitted that his biggest challenge in his role as Inglewood’s city administrator was reporting to the mayor and council members.

“They are my bosses,” he said in an earlier interview. “They set the policy and it’s my job to carry it out.”

However, Wanamaker left office after nearly two years in the position without completing all the policy requests from the council. He failed to negotiate a new contract with the production company behind Inglewood Community Television, the local public access cable channel run by the South Bay Performing Arts Initiative, according to Dunlap.

He negotiated the $2 billion deal to redevelop Inglewood’s Hollywood Park into restaurants, retail and residential property during his tenure.

“I have enjoyed the tremendous challenge of working with the wonderful team of dedicated public servants and staff to improve the City’s infrastructure as well as its business and family environment for the wonderful people who live and work here,” Wanamaker said in his statement of resignation.

“While I am proud of the progress the City has made during my nearly two years in this demanding role, many challenges remain ahead for the elected leaders as well as my future successor,” Wanamaker continued. “I offer my best wishes to everyone who accepts the responsibility of continuing to provide critically needed services to this great community in the years ahead, and offer my sincere thanks for the great opportunity I have had in my role as City Administrator.”

The city council accepted Wanamaker’s resignation and Sheldon Curry, assistant city administrator for development, will take over his duties in the meantime. Along with a special election to fill the empty mayoral seat, a new city administrator must be chosen to replace Wanamaker.

“We are confident that the city will continue to move forward with projects and initiatives that are important to our community without interruption while we seek his replacement,” Mayor Pro Tempore Eloy Morales said in a statement on behalf of the council.

The council will hold a special meeting Monday morning where they will likely confirm an interim city administrator, according to Deputy City Administrator and Chief Information Officer Michael Falkow, since the last scheduled open session meeting was canceled due to a bomb threat that lead to the evacuation of city hall.

“It’ll be a challenge, but we’ve gotten through it before and I’m sure we’ll get through it again,” said Falkow, who served as acting city administrator just before Wanamaker took office and helped prepare him for the transition to Inglewood. “He’ll be missed. He was young and vibrant and he pushed a lot of folks to do their best work. That’s the mark of a good city manager and a good leader.”

It took the council more than a year to appoint Wanamaker to serve as city administrator, Falkow said. Until the council makes its new appointment, Curry and Falkow will work alongside Jeff Muir, the assistant city administrator and chief financial officer, to handle city requests and continue operating its administration.

“From an administrative perspective, it’s a challenge because it’s like a ship. You need somebody to be the captain,” Fakow said. “The council needs a point person. They need someone they can go to as a singular entity for all of their requests and to make sure things funnel up.”

Wanamaker’s sudden resignation came as a surprise, he said.

“He was very upbeat, very pleasant,” Falkow said about Wanamaker’s departure. “He wished us all success in the future and did reiterate that we definitely have some challenges in the organization and that he was proud of what he had accomplished and what we had all accomplished as a team over the last nearly two years.”

The city’s affairs are not at a standstill despite the lack of an official mayor or city administrator.

“The real challenge at the city is obviously moving forward and tackling those big problems like the budget,” Falkow said regarding the city’s structural deficit. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

More on Inglewood’s political struggle:

Missing paperwork saves loan company from closure

imageA payday advance business operating in Inglewood for nearly a decade without a permit faced closure for the violation – until the city was unable to find its own copy of the company’s business license.

The business, Cash ‘N Run, which is located less than half a mile from City Hall, had operated without the permit for almost ten years when a city employee eating at a restaurant next door went in and asked to see the permit.

Owner Bob Altieri said he pays for his business license every year but he didn’t know that he needed a special use permit to operate a payday advance business.

The Inglewood Planning Committee denied Altieri’s request for the permit, but the City Council overturned that decision in late February after the city staff was unable to find their copy of the company’s business license.

Without their copy of the original business license, city council members said they couldn’t do anything but side with the owner.

“This is not a good sign about how we find documents,” Councilman Eloy Morales said. “It would be unfair if we were to say we messed up so we’ll go back and take [Cash ‘N Run] out.”

Councilman Ralph Franklin wondered during the meeting how the city didn’t know until now that Cash ‘N Run didn’t have the correct permit.

“This is the same business that has renewed its license for ten years,” Franklin said.

Altieri was visibly relieved after his appeal was granted. “I would have gone and got it back then,” Altieri said. “Nothing was done intentionally.”

In order to operate a payday advance business in Inglewood, the city requires the owner to buy, and be approved for, a special use permit. Although Morales said he and his colleagues on the city council “are not fans” of the payday advances, Inglewood has approved 15 special use permits for these type of businesses since 1998.

Altieri, who owns similar businesses in Santa Monica, Torrance and Los Angeles, said he purchased a permit for a onetime fee of $1180 after the city council approved his appeal.

“It’s not a real tight ship here,” Altieri said about the Inglewood city government. “They don’t even know what businesses are in the community.”

The appeal at the city council meeting spurred talk among the council members and citizens about whether the payday advances are good for the city of Inglewood.

California allows payday advance businesses but imposes restrictions on how much they can loan to borrowers.

Altieri loans a maximum of $255 to customers and then collects $300 two weeks later – an interest rate of more than 17 percent.

“If their check comes the 15th and their tire blows on the 10th, what are they going to do?” Altieri asked. “I provide a service to the community.”

Some Inglewood residents attending the council meeting disagreed, saying the payday advances only create debt that the borrowers can’t pay back.

“It is nothing more than a vicious cycle that preys on the poor citizens,” said LeRoy Fisher. “They put families in a terrible position with the cycle that they can never get out of paying.”

Another resident said the blame lies with the borrowers themselves.

“If there was no demand for these businesses, they wouldn’t be here,” said Ray Davis, who regularly attends council meetings. “We’ve become addicted to debt and we spend more than we make.”

Further reading: The Los Angeles Times: Payday lenders may avoid U.S. oversight