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Compton averts shutdown but new budget will force layoffs

July 20, 2011 | 10:48 am

Residents of Compton watch as Molly Rhodes of the Service Employees International Union Local 721 speaks to City Council members July 19.

After hours of discussion and occasional confusion, the Compton City Council took its final vote early Wednesday morning to approve a budget that includes layoffs of dozens of employees.

The vote allowed the city to avert a government shutdown and pay employees Thursday as scheduled, Mayor Eric Perrodin said.

Officials had said previously that if a budget was not passed, paychecks would not be issued and all but public safety and essential employees might be furloughed.

"This was a very heavy burden, but I feel really good about myself," said new Councilwoman Janna Zurita, who cast the deciding vote.

The vote came after a roller-coaster evening of discussion. It remained unclear almost until the end whether the council would pass a budget, and if so, which one.

The council, acting as the redevelopment commission, first voted 3-2 to approve the budget Tuesday night before going into closed session.

Many believed that was a final vote, but when the council emerged from closed session shortly after midnight, City Clerk Alita Godwin said members still needed to take a vote as the City Council.

One council member had already left for home, but the remaining members voted 3-1 to approve it.

The council also approved a series of amendments that would have incorporated a slate of union concessions, including an early retirement incentive program, and would have eliminated all layoffs.

But, after Councilwoman Lillie Dobson said she didn't understand the amendments, the council reversed its decision in a second vote.

The final budget that was adopted includes last-minute revisions presented to the council by City Manager Willie Norfleet that restored six firefighter positions that had been on the line and incorporated some, but not all, of the concessions that unions had proposed.

Union representatives had said that the concessions offer was contingent on avoiding layoffs.

The council also voted to retain four department heads who had been on the chopping block after the city attorney raised concerns that eliminating those positions would violate the city charter.

In all, 80 positions will be cut. Layoffs will be effective Aug. 2, said City Atty. Craig Cornwell.

The city is likely to face legal action by the unions, which claim that the city violated labor and open-meetings laws in the budget and layoff process.

"What we saw was a flagrant violation of the law," said Cheryl Parisi, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees' District Council 36, "…and we are going to fight to the fullest extent of the law."


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Photo: Compton residents watch as Molly Rhodes of the Service Employees International Union Local 721 speaks to the City Council on Tuesday. Dozens of residents attended the meeting. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times