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L.A. County supervisors to consider new limits on who can live in Vernon


Los Angeles County supervisors next week will consider pursuing legislation that would drastically reduce Vernon's historic control over who gets to live and vote in the tiny city, marking the latest effort by outsiders to make changes to the industrial enclave south of downtown L.A.

The proposal calls for an amendment to the California Constitution that would direct that no more than 10% of a charter city's owned or controlled housing can be occupied by city employees, or by people whose connections to city hall could constitute a conflict of interest.

Though Vernon has only about 90 residents, almost all of them have close relationships to the city's government and to the people who run the well-heeled, almost exclusively industrial town just south of downtown L.A. Critics have argued that the arrangement has kept control of Vernon in the hands of a ruling few, including some of the most lucratively paid officials in the state.

The city has been able to weather repeated criminal investigations, and its council members -- some of them in office for more than 30 years -- rarely face contested elections.

"The city's 90 or so residents eligible to vote reside in city-owned housing and are financially beholden to those in power," said Supervisor Gloria Molina, who drafted the proposal. "A permanent solution is required so that those that vote for the city's future, or the city's future leaders, are independent voters not beholden to the Vernon city government."

Molina's proposal comes two weeks after Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley suggested that Vernon be disincorporated, arguing that it might be the only way to end the decades of control by a small group of people and repeated allegations of public corruption. Last month, Donal O'Callaghan, the city's former administrator, was indicted by an L.A. grand jury on charges of conflict of interest and misappropriation of public funds involving two contracts the city established with his wife.

The Times revealed this summer that several Vernon officials have made $500,000 to more than $1 million a year, with Eric T. Fresch, a former city administrator and city attorney now paid as a legal consultant, making $1.6 million in 2008.

In the past, city officials have populated Vernon's mostly city-owned housing, with employees arguing that they were needed nearby in case of an emergency. But in the last few years, Vernon has replaced many of these workers with family members, friends and other close acquaintances of the city’s councilmen and top officials, including relatives of Fresch, O'Callaghan and the current city administrator, Mark Whitworth.

Vernon officials could not immediately reached for comment. In the past, officials have said there is no need to make changes in the city and that businesses in the city are pleased with the services they receive.

-- Hector Becerra and Sam Allen

Photo: The view from Vernon. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (9)

Yes, that's what I'm talking about.

Sounds like a company town in reverse.

Is that all we get out of this? Vernon should not be able to operate as a city with only 90 residents who seem to all be related to the city officials. That scenario is ridiculous and I cant believe that it is been able to go on for so long. I guarantee you that most Californians did not know that Vernon was operation like it is or else that city would have been closed down a long time ago. Why let a small clique of government officials get away with sanctioned corruption? Annex Vernon to the City of Los Angeles and lets be done with this craziness. Anything less and these so-called leaders we have will once again show why they lack respect among the people.

theres a reason none of these businesses reside in the city of L.A. the second vernon folds into the city of L.A., expect those 300 million a year businesses the dry up and move out. All the city of L.A. gets is a bunch of prime empty industrial property that no one wants but has to to protected from major gangs with L.A. city tax dollars in the form of police and fire. Best case, let those property owners get a vote in city matters & make Vernon have a a sort of ruling body run by county paid LA county appointees'.

Vernon, right near Bandini Mountain.
I guess the stink goes beyond the mountain...

HA-HA-HA! Who really expected things to change?

Vernon needs to be annexed into the surrounding cities. The same should happen to Bell too.

Good to see a newspaper actually doing some investigating. Unless the city officials own the land, their pay and benefits are ridiculous. The time has come to start combining cities & eliminate all the overlapping departments. Every city in Southern California should have at least 200,000 residents.

They are asking the wrong question...

Who in their right mind would WANT to live in Vernon?

Vernon should have been part of the City of LA from the beginning. Annex it to LA and lets move on. Oh yes, LA County Supervisor Antonovich should keep his nose OUT of Supervisor Molina's district.


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