An otherwise humdrum municipal election, to be held Tuesday, has been enlivened by an 11th-hour felony charge against an incumbent school board member, and by one City Councilman's refusal to run on an informal ticket that was backed by Mayor Edward Vincent.
School board member Caroline Coleman--whose campaign was clouded by the Los Angeles County district attorney's eight-month investigation into her use of school district funds--was arraigned Thursday in Los Angeles Municipal Court, where she pleaded not guilty to one count of misuse of public funds. Coleman is scheduled to reappear in court April 18 when the date of her preliminary hearing will be set.
Meanwhile, District 2 councilman Anthony Scardenzan issued a tersely worded statement last week rejecting attempts to link him with District 1 Councilman Daniel K. Tabor, Coleman, and school board candidates Ernest Shaw and Wanda Brown.
Mailers had gone out earlier from "Your Inglewood Democratic Team," asking voters to cast their ballots for the informal slate backed by Vincent.
Through his campaign manager, Ken Gossett, Scardenzan issued a statement that he had neither sought nor desired the mayor's endorsement, or inclusion on a party slate of any kind.
"I'm running an independent campaign," Scardenzan's statement read. "I do not endorse or seek the support of any other candidates."
Gossett said Scardenzan was particularly distressed at being linked with Tabor and Coleman, because Scardenzan prides himself on being the council's independent and believes that the city and school board must remain politically independent of each other.
Otherwise, with only one uneventful debate behind them, the candidates have been set off more by their financial resources than by well-defined differences on the issues.
With a war chest of nearly $20,000, Scardenzan far outstripped opponents such as Andrew Chapralis, whose only resources came from an $800 loan he made to himself. Challengers Jess Willard and Lee Smith did not fare much better against the seemingly entrenched first-term councilman, with Willard raising $2,200 and Smith a little over $1,000.
Criticism From Assemblyman
Despite backing from the mayor, Tabor has had rougher going since he got caught in criticism that Assemblyman Curtis R. Tucker (D-Inglewood) directed at Vincent. Tucker in recent weeks has condemned what he called efforts by the mayor to build a political machine in Inglewood and reduce the City Council to a rubber stamp. Tabor has been a close political ally of Vincent since taking office.
Tabor also has taken political heat from challengers for his vote last November to award an $11-million residential trash-collection contract to Western Waste Industries without competitive bidding or public hearings.
Candidate Yvonne Mitchell was an outspoken opponent of the decision at that time, terming the staff report on the subject "sloppy and haphazard." The council vote on that issue, which also dismantled the city's sanitation department, was 4 to 1, with Scardenzan providing the only opposition.
However, Tabor has amassed nearly $13,000 in his campaign for reelection, while Mitchell--who has been heavily promoted by Tucker--lists a $2,000 contribution from the assemblyman and $320 in other contributions. Candidate Donald McClure has yet to raise more than $500, so has not filed a campaign disclosure statement.
School Board Race
Meanwhile, with nine candidates vying for three seats, the school board race has split into two neatly divided slates--one endorsed by the mayor and the other by Tucker--with three candidates running unaffiliated.
Nearly all the candidates have cited as their goals a better working relationship with City Hall and an upgrading of the school system.
The Committee for Quality Education, consisting mainly of the candidates, their spouses, and a few key supporters, has raised $12,420 and split it evenly among candidates Karen Bonner Gill, who is challenging Coleman; incumbent Ronni Cooper, and James Cousar, who is running against incumbent Rose Mary Benjamin.
While Tucker has come out strongly in favor of Gill, Cooper and Cousar, and promised to back Gill financially, committee treasurer Anne L. Gaines says she has not received any contributions from the assemblyman. School board President William (Tony) Draper also has been an ardent supporter of the slate.
The Vincent-backed school board slate of Coleman, Shaw and Brown is surprisingly under-financed, according to second period campaign disclosure statements, with Brown and Shaw each reporting $535 in contributions. Coleman has raised a little more than $1,800 in her reelection bid.
Perennial candidate Mildred McNair, however, who also is challenging Coleman, raised $4,000 in the first filing period alone, which ended in mid-February. Because of a reporting error, McNair's second period filings were not available. Benjamin has also raised about $4,000, while Michael Davis, who is running against Cooper, has raised less than $500.