By Emilie St. John
COMPTON — The city has a settled a lawsuit over its failure to release employee salary records in a timely manner.
Transparent California agreed to drop its lawsuit against Compton Dec. 15.
As part of the settlement, Compton is also required to reimburse Nevada Policy for court costs, which totaled $7,500.
“This is a great day for open government in California,” said Todd Maddison, Transparent California’s director of research. “We can only hope every government agency in the state will understand responding to our requests is a legal requirement under the Public Records Act and simply provide us with that data so actions like this are not needed.”
Compton officials refused to release transparency data detailing the names and salaries of employees, as required by law, for nearly a year. A suit was filed against the city Nov. 18.
The settlement requires Compton officials to turn over the data originally requested, which they have now done.
“Actions like this are necessary because Californians rarely receive the full transparency promised by the state’s Public Records Act,” Maddison said. “Until the Legislature treats public officials the same as all other Californians and imposes a penalty on those who choose to ignore the law, it’s likely this sort of behavior will continue.”
Compton City Clerk Alita Godwin, who is in charge of the office that releases public records requests, announced her retirement during the Nov. 15 city council meeting.
“After more than 40 years of employment with the city of Compton, I have decided to retire as of Dec. 31, 2022,” Godwin said.
The city has not indicated whether they will appoint a new city clerk or hold a special election.
A recent audit released by the state lists Compton as the most “fiscally challenged” city due to its repeated failures to provide basic information on the city’s finances. Compton has held the No. 1 spot for several years.
City Treasurer Brandon Mims regularly hosts meetings with members of the public to keep them apprised of issues related to the city’s finances in a bid to provide greater transparency to the city’s nearly 100,000 residents.
The city awarded an $800,000 contract to the auditing firm of Eadie + Payne in January 2018 to bring the city into compliance on its audits for fiscal years 2013 through 2017.
The last audited financial statements were produced in 2011, which resulted in the city losing its credit rating the following year after auditors failed to provide an opinion on the audit pertaining to the city’s Redevelopment Agency.
Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at email@example.com.