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State Senate rejects controversial plan to disband city of Vernon [Updated]

August 29, 2011 |  4:09 pm

Senate approves bill to disincorporate city of Vernon 
This post has been corrected. See the note at bottom for details.

The state Senate on Monday afternoon failed to approve a controversial bill to disband the troubled city of Vernon and make it a part of Los Angeles County.

The bill, AB 46, would have marked the first forced disincorporation of a city in the state's modern history. Its author, Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles), has argued that Vernon lacks a legitimate electorate and that dissolving the city is the only way to permanently root out corruption there.

The bill failed by a 13-17 vote, but 10 senators were not present. It is unclear whether Pérez will reintroduce the bill.

[Updated at 4:20 p.m.: A spokesman for Pérez said the lawmaker did not plan to continue his efforts to disband the city.

Pérez issued the following statement:

"Today's action by the Senate is a deep disappointment to the men and women of the Southeast Communities. I introduced AB 46 to finally end the toxic corruption that has poisoned the Southeast Communities by disincorporating Vernon. The Senate chose to ignore decades of corruption in Vernon, and AB 46, like multiple bills that came in response to the Bell scandals last year, could not gather a majority of senators.

The fact is clear: Senators Calderon and De León, along with their colleagues, have given Vernon a free pass to continue doing business as usual, and those senators will own the responsibility for any misdeeds that may occur in the future. I am proud of the fact that I stood with the men and women of the Southeast Communities in this effort."]

Three Vernon leaders have been convicted on corruption charges since 2006. During the same period, five city officials made over half a million dollars a year, and part-time City Council members were among the highest-paid in the state.

Only about 100 people live in the industrial city just south of downtown L.A. Nearly all of the residents rent homes and apartments owned by the city government, and many have close ties to city leaders.

A coalition of Vernon city officials, the city's Chamber of Commerce and local labor leaders aggressively fought AB 46. They argued that the bill was unconstitutional and would cause a loss of jobs.

Last week, they won the support of state Sen. Kevin De Leon, who was originally a coauthor of AB 46. Saying that disincorporation would damage the local economy, De Leon proposed a series of reforms that were swiftly supported by the Vernon City Council. 

[For the record, 4:48 p.m. Aug. 29: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the bill had failed on a 17-13 vote.]


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Photo: Vernon City Hall. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times