Inglewood residents fear an onslaught of special elections

Over the next eight months, Inglewood voters may find themselves casting ballots in local elections not once, not twice, but as many as five times.

The voting begins with a special election on June 8 to fill the post vacated by Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn, who abruptly resigned in January after pleading guilty to a charge of public corruption.

If one candidate does not receive the majority of the votes, a runoff election will be scheduled no more than 70 days later, meaning some time in August, according to the city charter.

Close contests that result in runoffs are not uncommon in Inglewood. The city’s last mayoral election – in 2006 – went to a runoff, as did the election that year for the District 1 council seat.

“When you have a fresh election with new people, yes, [a runoff] is very common,” said Yvonne Horton, city clerk for Inglewood.

If one of the three council members who are vying for the mayoral spot wins, another election may be required to fill their vacated post.

And that’s not it.

Inglewood’s “worst-case scenario” could include an onslaught of special elections, said Elliott Petty, of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and the Coalition for a Better Inglewood.

“I very easily see four to five elections in the next eight months, a low turnout, and a lot of money for the city,” Petty said.

Kareem Crayton, an expert on election law and politics at the University of Southern California, called it the “domino effect of election vacancies.” While he said special elections are not uncommon, “the people who design these election rules do not really consider the costs associated with the ‘worst case scenario.’”

The June election alone will divert more than $100,000 from Inglewood’s general fund, Horton said. By consolidating the local election with a statewide race, the city will not have to hire its own poll workers.

But, according to Horton, that doesn’t mean the election is free. “[The state] will give us a quote, and we have to pay them,” she said.

The price tag for each subsequent runoff election would be the same, with the cost shouldered entirely by the city.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the nominating period for the November’s regular mayoral election runs from July 12 to August 6.

“Special elections happen all the time for any unfortunate reason,” said Sherry Mosley, an expert on governmental affairs at the University of Southern California. “But if that ran into a November election, then why are they having a November election?”

Council members are considering consolidating a potential runoff with the November election, said Edward Maddox, the Inglewood public information officer.

“They would need to petition to put something on the ballot that would change the rules,” Maddox said. “There is talk about that but council hasn’t taken any action.”

Residents are worried about what this potential election overload could do to voter turnout.

“I tend to believe after so many elections people get tired and dismayed,” Petty said. “You hear a lot of promises, and you get tired of the promises.”

Recent political events in Inglewood, however, have sparked an increased interest at city council meetings. The first council meeting after Dorn’s resignation drew a standing-room-only crowd.

“I hope these citizens see there’s a change happening,” Raynald Davis, an Inglewood resident, observed at the time. “And we need to take a stand as a city.”

Meet the candidates for Inglewood mayor

Nine Inglewood residents are vying to be the city’s next mayor.

The election was called after former Mayor Roosevelt Dorn pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest charge in January and was forced to resign.

It will be consolidated with the general statewide election to meet the guidelines dictated by the city charter.

The filing period for the mayoral election lasts from Feb. 16 to March 12, and seven people had filed as of Feb. 26.

In order to be placed on the ballot, a candidate must collect 40 signatures from Inglewood residents.

To win the election, a candidate must receive more than 50 percent of the votes, so the likelihood of multiple run-off elections is high, said Ed Maddox, Inglewood’s public information officer.

Until the election, city council members will serve as Mayor Pro Tempore in a monthly rotation.

Meet the candidates:

Ralph Franklin has been a council member since 2003. Over the past seven years, he has advocated for the development of Century Boulevard and the Hollywood Racetrack.
Franklin mounted, however, a successful opposition to Dorn’s effort to bring a Wal-Mart into Inglewood in 2004.

imageFranklin has been a member of the Crenshaw Christian Center for more than 40 years.

“I seek your support to take care of the King’s business by having someone in office that is a child of God and a yielding vessel to do his work as Mayor for the City of Inglewood,” Franklin said in a note to the public.

The main components of Franklin’s platform are improving infrastructure and alleys, working on the water and sewer lines, and bringing the deficit balance budget back into the black. He plans to stimulate jobs, enhance public transportation, and hold the police force accountable.

“I am that man that has the ability, fortitude, and tenacity to make it a reality,” Franklin said.

In 2003, after serving 12 years as the chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission, Franklin was elected to the city council seat previously held by Lorraine Johnson.

Johnson had served as the 4th District councilmember from November 2002 until April 2003, at which point the seat came up for a four-year term, and failed to make the ballot. Franklin won a run-off election against community activist Mike Stevens for the seat, but Johnson sued, claiming Stevens had not lived in the district at filing time.

According to a Los Angeles Times article, a Los Angeles Superior Court overturned the election.

Franklin eventually won a court-ordered election and criticized Johnson for causing “considerable and unnecessary” expense to the city and aggravating voters. Johnson told the Los Angeles Times that she simply wanted the voters to get an honest election and aimed to discourage candidates from lying about their residency.

According to campaign finance records in 2002, Johnson raised $45,000 for the election, while Franklin raised nearly $112,000.

Lorraine Johnson told the Los Angeles Wave that she could “offer a new direction and new vision to the city.” She cites the 4th district development and early proposals for the development on Century Boulevard as some of her successes.

Johnson is a revenue administrator for an investment banking company and has a degree in business administration. She has served as the vice president of both the Inglewood Leadership Council and the Youth and Education Committee, according to her candidate profile.

“I think I have more to offer and feel I could do a better job than those who are likely to be running,” Johnson said. “I think we need to do away with the old and bring in the new.”

Wanda Brown has served as the city treasurer for 23 years. She claims to have earned the city $63 million in interest and said she has “never lost a penny, not even half a penny.”

imageBrown has an M.B.A. and Ph.D. in accounting and has taught finance classes at the UCLA extension and to the youth of Inglewood.

She has been criticized for receiving a $235,000 city loan from the same housing incentive program that toppled Dorn.

Brown was cleared of any misconduct because, unlike Dorn, she did not have the power to vote on the loan program.

This issue has brought her into contention with former Councilman Daniel Tabor, who directed Brown to pay back the loan. During his tenure as mayor, Dorn often came to her defense.

“There isn’t any question Ms. Brown received these funds legally, even though the contract was fraught with deceit. Ms. Brown has a strong case against the city, and they have no chance of making her pay off this loan immediately,” Dorn told the Los Angeles Wave.

Brown did not return calls to comment.

Daniel Tabor served on the city council 20 years ago but was unseated in 1993.

imageHe was reelected in 2007 and, in recent years, has worked on protecting residents from airplane noise, redeveloping areas like Hollywood Park, and fighting for families facing foreclosures.

Tabor said he will probably spend $150,000 to $200,000 on the campaign.

“I’ll probably end up running four times instead of just once because of the run-offs, so I need to take into account the cost of mailing and getting the message out there,” Tabor said.

Tabor has faced criticism for his financial problems, particularly from Brown. A search of Los Angeles court records showed Tabor has two small claims cases and a collections case on his record.

Tabor has run for mayor twice, most recently in 2007, when he was endorsed by Councilman Morales, the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters, and District Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Tabor said he does not expect Morales to endorse him again.

Larry Springs is an Inglewood real estate broker with Century 21. Springs filed candidacy but is unsure whether he will run a formal campaign.

“I haven’t made a complete decision,” he said. “There are a few more people I need to talk to.”

Springs said he would like to see affordable housing, a city walk, and a golf course developed in Inglewood.

Velma Anderson has been attending council meetings since 2000 and has spoken out against issues such as airport noise, according to council minutes.

In 2002, Anderson ran for the 4th District council seat but lost to Johnson, who won with 44 percent of the votes. Anderson also ran for City Clerk but did not receive any votes.

Audrey Lehman is a court reporter in Inglewood, and Solomon Muez is a contractor. Neither was available for comment.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Horton expects the locations will be announced in late March. Residents interested in becoming a poll worker can get an application at

The deadline for voter registration is March 24. Registration forms can be found at city hall, fire stations, libraries, and post offices.

Photo Credit: City of Inglewood Website

What does the future hold for the city of Inglewood? In-depth coverage of the city’s political transition:


Inglewood treasurer throws hat into mayoral race

Although disgraced Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt F. Dorn has resigned, his legacy may find new life in the mayor’s office.

Wanda Brown, the city’s treasurer for nearly a quarter century and a staunch Dorn ally, has declared her intention to run for the vacated mayoral post in June’s special election.
Brown said that as mayor one of her primary concerns would be redevelopment initiatives, such as the $2 billion Hollywood Park renovation project.

“Revenues are needed for the city,” Brown said. “We have to appear to be business-friendly to attract investors.”

Brown intends to revive a proposed senior center that was “put in permanent limbo” after the old center was torn down.

Brown said her accomplishments as city treasurer demonstrate her qualifications for the city’s highest elective office.

First elected in 1987, Wanda Brown has served as Inglewood’s treasurer for the past 23 years. Her first foray into Inglewood city politics came in 1983, when she ran for city treasurer and lost badly to incumbent Stan Jones.

In 1985, Brown, backed by then-mayor Ed Vincent, ran for school board on the platform of firing then-Superintendent Rex Fortune. She was defeated by a 3-1 margin after admitting she sent her two children to public schools in Westchester instead of Inglewood.

Not giving up and supported again by Vincent, Brown defeated Jones for city treasurer in June of 1987. Brown has been re-elected five times and has served 24 years as Inglewood’s treasurer – her current term expires in 2011.

But her tenure hasn’t been without controversy.

She created a stir in March 1993 when she proposed a 16-fold increase in her own salary, from less than $4,000 annually to just under $70,000 per year.

The proposal came during a financially difficult time for the city, angering city council members who were under pressure to reduce the budget.

“She is completely out of line,” then-councilman Tony Scardenzan told the Daily Breeze in 1993. “At a time when everyone else is looking at pay cuts she wants a pay increase that is out of orbit.”

Brown disagreed, saying the raise would allow her to spend more time on the job and thereby increase the city’s profits from financial investments. The increase was tabled by the city council until 1996, when her salary was upped to just over $40,000 per year on a 3-2 vote.

Brown said she has invested as much as $600 million on behalf of the city, earning it more than $72 million, though supporting data was not available to substantiate the claim.

“To have never lost a single dollar,” Brown said. “I consider that an achievement.”

Brown also touted her extensive education. She holds both an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

“I have the best education of anyone in government,” she said. “Better than anyone on the council.”

Brown, 65, said she felt compelled to run to represent “outraged” citizens who are upset with the actions of the current council members since Dorn’s departure, including a call by Councilwoman Judy Dunlap for more oversight of the treasurer.

When asked why some members of the council are seeking stricter control over her office, Brown blamed her alliance with Dorn.

“Well, basically I’m the last person on the council that was supportive of our former mayor,” Brown said.

The tension came to a head during a recent city council meeting, when Dunlap said the city treasurer has too much power and not enough accountability.

“We did not give her the authority to make these decisions,” Dunlap said at the meeting. “We currently have over $100 million invested that we are getting zero percent interest on. She has no oversight.”

Brown accused the council members of unfairly attacking her. “This is nothing more than a witch hunt,” Brown said.

Brown and Dunlap exchanged personal insults, pointing out mistakes in each other’s private financial dealings. “Not once have I received a compliment from her,” Brown said.

Dunlap is considering running for mayor in the June election as well.

Councilman Daniel Tabor proposed a plan to create a financial oversight committee but said Brown had done nothing wrong and that her job was not in jeopardy.

“She hasn’t lost a penny, not one half-cent,” Tabor said during the meeting. “But with a different investment strategy, the city could have made more money.”

During the meeting, Dunlap brought up Inglewood’s Residential Incentive Policy program, which was created by the city council in 1992 to offer low-interest loans to potential city executive employees so that they could live in the city.

At the prodding of then-mayor Dorn, the council modified the program in 2004 to extend the loans to current council members, the city clerk and city treasurer.

Dorn and Brown both took out low interest loans, which were later found to be against the law.

Dorn was set to go to court in January before pleading guilty of public corruption and agreeing to never serve in public office again. Brown, who took out a $235,000 loan, says she did nothing wrong and the district attorney agreed—no charges were filed against her.

“Wanda Brown’s circumstances were substantially different than Mayor Dorn’s,” said Jennifer Lentz Snyder, the assistant head deputy of the public integrity division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and one of the prosecutors that investigated Dorn and Brown.

Snyder said that the reason Dorn’s act was illegal was the fact that he voted for a program that benefitted himself financially. Brown, as the city treasurer, did not have a vote in creating the program.

Dunlap said that city administrators have sent letters to Brown asking that the loan be repaid immediately. Brown has refused to do so.

Snyder said the attorney’s office is no longer investigating Brown and the issue of repaying the loan did not impact their investigation.

“In the absence of any additional information, there is nothing forthcoming in the case,” Snyder said.

But Councilman Ralph Franklin said the city plans to pursue legal action if the funds are not paid soon. “We just want our money,” Franklin said.

While Brown is confident that she represents the best candidate for mayor, some Inglewood residents do not agree.

Diane Sambrano, president of the Historical Society of Centinela Valley and a citizen activist for 14 years, fears that Brown will be unable to accomplish policy goals without being hindered by opposition from city council members.

“It takes three Council members to make anything happen,” Sambrano said. “Wanda hasn’t won the hearts of any other two members of the council.”

Other residents say Brown should be given a chance.

“She has a cloud over her right now,” said Raynald Davis, a resident of Inglewood for 25 years. “But she is irreproachable in honesty and integrity.”

Photo Credit: City of Inglewood Website

What does the future hold for the city of Inglewood? In-depth coverage of the city’s political transition: