COMPTON — The Compton City Council convened March 2 to hear a mid-year budget review for fiscal year 2020-21, which showed a projected balanced budget as revenue for the reporting period was up.
The council also met in closed session to discuss a lawsuit filed by JCJ Corporation, which ran a marijuana dispensary at 609 N. Long Beach Blvd. The company alleges that City Manager Craig Cornwell performed illegal search and seizures with the assistance of Senior Building Inspector Victor Orozco.
“My clients believe this alleged inspection warrant was not properly authorized by the court because it lacked an identifiable case number and was not stamped by the court with a corresponding filing date,” said Charles Cummings, attorney for JCJ. “During a hearing, Assistant City Attorney Jose Paz was unable to produce a copy of the warrant with a case number with a date stamp of the filing, or any receipts for the items seized as required by law.”
At the time of the allegations, Cornwell was the city attorney and residents are asking that he step down from his current duties while the case proceeds to trial March 11.
“Anyone named as a defendant in a lawsuit against the city, should be placed on administrative leave, which includes Cornwell and Victor Orozco,” said Robert Ray, a longtime resident.
Cornwell presented the city’s midyear budget which detailed revenue was up in most areas and, due to new identified revenue and salary savings, he is requesting those funds be transferred to various departments in need of funding.
“We are proposing $1.2 million be put into our firefighter overtime budget due to COVID protocols and staffing shortages, has made the need for overtime significant,” Cornwell said.
Councilwoman Michelle Chambers requested a canteen for the firefighters, using the surplus funds to provide beverages and hot meals to firefighters similar to a service provided by the Salvation Army.
“I know the Salvation Army is stretched thin but if we could look into this for our firefighters I would appreciate it,” Chambers said.
Residents are more concerned about firefighters having sufficient water pressure, at the fire hydrants, which hindered the putting out of a massive fire that broke out in an industrial complex Feb. 26.
“I took a survey of residents asking how often they see the fire hydrants checked in their neighborhood, and they said rarely if at all,” Ray said. “Over 10 years ago a member of the fire department came to council complaining about the water pressure in that area. We need a regular fire hydrant testing schedule since this is a public safety issue.”
Ray says his hydrant hasn’t been tested in five years.
Cornwell told the council that general fund and Measure P revenues netted a surplus, while gas tax and lighting and landscaping were in a deficit. Funds related to water and grants are still under review and will be brought back separately.
Overall, the city manager said he is confident the city’s current fiscal year’s budget is balanced despite an audit that revealed the city is in $113 million in debt.
Mayor Aja Brown held her final State of the City address Feb. 25, where she blamed the city’s financial woes on previous administrations.
“The problem with Aja Brown is she doesn’t take responsibility for her administration’s inability to get the finances on track,” said Marvin McCoy. “She is constantly bringing up the previous mayor who hasn’t been in office for 20 years.”
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.