Local Elections : Lynwood Candidate Questioned About Claim of Having College Degree

Times Staff Writer

Councilman Robert Henning, who has established himself as an outspoken and sometimes controversial figure during his first four-year term, finds himself being questioned about an old campaign statement as he seeks reelection.

Henning is one of seven candidates running for two seats on the council in the Nov. 3 election. Besides Henning’s slot, the seat now held by Councilman John Byork is also on the ballot. Byork is not seeking reelection.

Questions about Henning stem from a claim he made in the sample ballot four years ago that he had a bachelor of arts in sociology from Cal State Los Angeles. The Times this week was told that a check of records indicated that Henning never attended the university.

Henning either never enrolled or the check of the records simply did not locate him, said Eve Reyes, a clerical assistant in student records.


The councilman’s claim to be a college graduate was first questioned last month by the Lynwood Journal, a weekly tabloid. Shortly after that, the monthly Lynwood News claimed that Henning had filed a $5-million slander suit against the Journal for making a false accusation. Ray O. Watkins, president and publisher of the Journal, says no suit has been filed against him or his newspaper.

Henning, who said several months ago that he was helping to start the News to offer an alternative to the Journal and another weekly in the community of 51,000 people, is being uncharacteristically quiet.

He will not talk about his educational background and will say only that he is conferring with his attorney. In the meantime, his current campaign material makes no reference to his education.

The controversy has not been picked up by other candidates, who say they are running on a variety of issues.


Although six other candidates have filed, Patricia Carr, 35, said in an interview that she is not actively running and has thrown her support to another candidate.

Henning became the only incumbent to seek reelection when Byork, 79, announced he would not run after serving more than 20 years on the council. Byork has been in poor health recently.

Two Support Heine

Byork and Councilman E. L. Morris have thrown their support behind Louis J. Heine, with each contributing $500 to his campaign. Heine, 69, was a fourth-place finisher in the 1985 council election, and he finished third in a special election in 1986 to replace Louis A. Thompson, who died in office.

Heine said that if he is elected, he would try to increase the number of sheriff’s deputies patroling the city. He said he would like to increase arrests, especially of drug dealers. He said he believes state money can be found to pay for additional deputies. The city has a contract with the Sheriff’s Department for police service.

Heine retired from the Lynwood Unified School District as an elementary school principal in 1980, and says he has a master’s degree from Cal State Long Beach.

Another candidate is also making his third run for the council. Alfreddie Johnson, 26, runs his own marketing and public relations firm, IBEI Telesis Co. He ran in 1985 and 1986. Johnson finished fifth in a 12-candidate race in 1985. He came in second in 1986 in a field of eight. Johnson, who said he has a bachelor of arts degree in history from UCLA, said that if he is elected, he would attempt to get more state and federal to aid to help spur development and bring jobs to the city.

Henning, Councilwoman Evelyn Wells and Carr, a part-time cook for the Los Angeles Unified School District, are supporting Johnson.


Alberto M. Penalber, a salesman for R. E. Poole General Contractor of South Gate, is making his first election bid. Penalber, 45, said he is running because neither the council nor the Lynwood Unified School District board has a Latino representative. The city’s population is 43% Latino, 34% black and 20% white, according to figures cited by the Lynwood Chamber of Commerce.

“There should be a Hispanic,” Penalber said. “We need a voice.”

Penalber, who has been a volunteer with the Sheriff’s Department for several years, said he would push for more city recreational programs. He said he attended Compton College.

Heine and Penalber have endorsed each other. In many areas of the city, the campaign signs of the two candidates are placed side-by-side.

Kent Swift, 26, is a mental health researcher at Drew Medical Center at Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital who is also making his first election bid. He said he is a graduate of Augsburg College, Minn., with a bachelor of arts degree in political science.

Swift worked in Johnson’s last campaign and said he sees “the neglect of youths” in the city as a major issue. “We need a youth leadership training program. We need a resource center to deal with the problems of youths, including teen-age pregnancy and drug abuse,” Swift said.

Would Seek Grants

He said if he is elected he will ask for state Community Block Grants and solicit donations from the local business community to start a youth center.


Zelma Owens, who describes herself as an administrative assistant in a candidate’s statement filed with the city clerk, could not be reached for comment.

Henning said the most important issues in the campaign are redevelopment and jobs. “With development we will be able to get more jobs for our local residents,” he said.

The city’s major redevelopment project is an $11-million redevelopment shopping center along Long Beach Boulevard near the Century Freeway, which is under construction by Hopkins Development Co. of Newport Beach.

Hopkins contributed $300 to Henning’s campaign, which had raised nearly $8,000 during the latest financial reporting period.

Henning also received more than $2,000 from liquor store owners and managers in the city. Henning had earlier voted for a tough liquor ordinance but along with the four other council members killed the measure last month. A new ordinance is being drafted by the Planning Department and the city attorney.

Henning said he sees no conflict in accepting the money from people who appear before the council. “It will not influence my decisions,” said Henning, a supervisor for job services at the state Employment Development Department, Compton.

Reports $4,000

Heine has raised about $4,000 but said he expects to raise more than $7,000. He said he has received about $1,000 from the Hopkins company. He said the contributions would not affect his voting on issues involving the developer.

Johnson said he will spend about $2,000 on the campaign. His latest financial statements show him receiving non-monetary contributions of $1,566 of which $143 was contributed by Henning for campaign signs.

Penalber said he does not intend to spend much more than $1,000 in the campaign. Swift said he would not spend more than $2,000, most of it his own.

It does not appear any of the candidates will come close to the record-setting $31,000 spent by Paul H. Richards in the 1986 special election.

Richards, who is now serving as mayor, says he is staying neutral in the campaign because he is interested in promoting harmony on the council.

“Citizens need to make up their own minds,” Richards said.

This election could affect a 3-2 split on the council. Richards won the mostly honorary title of mayor in a bitter fight that pitted Henning and Wells against Richards, Byork and Morris. The same 3-2 division has appeared in a number of key council votes and has led to sharp words between Henning and Richards.

Council members, who are elected at-large, meet twice monthly and receive a salary of $500 a month. They also receive a $175-a-month car allowance.