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Compton fires city manager; mayor cites 'time to go in new direction'

September 8, 2010 |  8:16 am

The Compton City Council voted early Wednesday morning to fire the city's top administrator.

After a five-hour meeting followed by an hour-and-a-half closed session, the council returned at 1:38 a.m. to report that the four members present, including Mayor Eric Perrodin, had voted unanimously to terminate City Manager Charles Evans.

They appointed City Controller Willie Norfleet to take his place. Evans could not be reached for comment, and council members declined to say why Evans was fired.

"He did a good job for us while he was here, and I just think it was time to go in a new direction," Perrodin said.

The top priority for the new city manager should be reestablishing the Compton Police Department, the mayor said. The council voted 3-2 in June to end the city's contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and to reinstate the Compton Police Department.

The department was disbanded a decade ago amid political turmoil and rising violent-crime rates. Perrodin, a former Compton police officer, had been a proponent of bringing back the municipal force.

The new city manager will need to continue initiatives already in the works, including streetscape improvements along Willowbrook Avenue, a revamping of the city's streetlight system, development of a master plan for the Greenleaf Parkway and wooing businesses to Compton.

Evans took part in a delegation to China last month to attract business, along with the city planning director and council members Dr. Willie Jones and Yvonne Arceneaux.

Perrodin said the city will launch a search for a new permanent city manager. In the meantime, Norfleet will have the power to appoint people to fill the two assistant city manager spots.

Evans took over in 2007, when the former city manager, Barbara Kilroy, was terminated. He had served as assistant city manager under Kilroy. Before that, he worked in risk management for the city.

He was hired as city manager in June 2008 on a three-year contract. His base salary was $185,000 a year, but with perks, his total taxable compensation came to about $292,000 in 2009, according to city records. His contract specifies a severance package of six months' salary plus a payout for unused sick, vacation or other leave time.

The City Council chambers were packed well into the night with citizens curious about the proposed ousting of the city manager. Local activists pushing for a recall of Perrodin, council member Lillie Dobson, City Attorney Craig Cornwell and City Clerk Alita Godwin had convened a protest prior to the council meeting.

By the time the council returned from closed session to report Evans' termination, the room was nearly empty.

Lorraine Cervantes, an outspoken supporter of Perrodin, said she opposed a shakeup in the city manager's office when so many projects are in the works.

"You don't switch pilots in the middle of a flight," she said.

Some recall proponents said Evans was unqualified for the job and lacked vision. Others claimed he had been fired and offered a severance package to hush him up about illegal city activities.

Some of Perrodin's opponents said he had a history of micromanaging city officials, and the firing was another example of him overstepping his authority.

"[Evans] has done mostly what the mayor has asked him to, because the mayor runs the city," said recall proponent Joyce Kelly. "That's what the manager is supposed to do."

Perrodin said his detractors overstate his power.

"I only have one vote," he said. "I can't hire and fire anybody."

-- Abby Sewell at Compton City Hall