INGLEWOOD — The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit has ruled that the excessive salary paid to the former aide to Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. did not violate government codes and wasn’t a gift of public funds.
In 2018, media outlets described Melanie McDade as a “highly paid assistant” when it was revealed that she was earning $324,000 at the time to serve as executive assistant to Butts and City Manager Artie Fields.
Residents took issue with the high salary due and the fact that McDade was involved in a nearly nine-year relationship with the mayor.
“City Manager Artie Fields has admitted to knowing the mayor and Ms. McDade where in a nearly nine-year relationship and I believe her salary was an exaggerated ‘perk’ for her relationship with the mayor,” said Marvin McCoy, who initiated the complaint.
Deputy District Attorney Michelle Gilmer noted in her closing memorandum dated Feb. 26, that she investigated McCoy’s complaint by interviewing city officials who stated in 2017 Fields authorized McDade to receive both special assignment and acting pay.
“On Jan. 3, 2017 and June 21, 2017, Fields generated memos requesting McDade receive the additional pay which violates the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the city of Inglewood and the Inglewood Executive Organization,” Gilmer wrote.
Gilmer noted she reviewed MOUs for the periods of Jan. 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2015 and Oct. 1, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2020, which prohibited executives from receiving special assignment and acting pay simultaneously.
“Fields later submitted documentation to delete the acting pay and designate only assignment pay effective April 22, 2017,” Gilmer said.
Gilmer’s closing memo failed to mention if the city made McDade pay back the acting pay compensation she wasn’t entitled to receive.
McDade’s employment was terminated at the end of December 2019 where her final salary and compensation was $403,308. She has since filed a lawsuit against the city claiming wrongful termination and sexual harassment.
Government Code 424(a) was previously held to be a general intent crime. However, in Stark v. Superior Court (2011) the court held that section 424(a) requires proof that the defendant either knew his or her conduct was without authority of the law, or was criminally negligent in failing to know that his or her acts or omissions in appropriating public funds were without authority of the law.
“There is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that representatives for the city of Inglewood misappropriated public funds,” Gilmer wrote.
McCoy wasn’t happy with the deputy district attorney’s findings.
“I believe the D.A.’s office got this wrong as residents should be able to comfortably conclude the Human Resources Department has knowledge of the employee’s MOU agreements and would have known not to authorize additional pay in violation of the MOU,” McCoy said. “In essence, this ruling states that you can take money, and as long as you put it back, no crime has occurred.”
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood areas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.