Hotel's Hiring of Officials' Relatives Challenged

Times Staff Writer

Two city residents say they will ask the City Council Tuesday to investigate hiring practices at the Compton Lazben Hotel, which is scheduled to open soon.

Mayor Walter Tucker's daughter, Camille, is listed on the hotel's personnel roster. She said she has been offered a job, but has not formally accepted. The wife of a city redevelopment official also was among the employees listed on a report submitted to the council.

Conflict of Interest

The hotel management's plan to hire Camille Tucker smacks of nepotism and poses a conflict of interest, said the two residents, Benjamin Holifield and Basil Kimbrew. Holifield was an unsuccessful candidate in last spring's City Council elections. Kimbrew is a political consultant who managed the campaign of Tucker's opponent.

Kimbrew and Holifield said they want the council to determine whether influence at City Hall played a part in the hirings and whether the hiring process was open and competitive.

Any council member who personally profits or has a family member "who may profit personally at the expense of the people" should not make decisions about the hotel, Holifield and Kimbrew said in a written statement distributed at a press conference Thursday morning outside the unfinished hotel and convention center complex.

According to a list prepared for the City Council by the hotel, Camille Tucker is to be a concierge when the hotel opens Aug. 15. Darlinda Nuby, wife of Michael Nuby, deputy director of the city's Redevelopment Agency, is already working as an administrative assistant in the hotel's personnel department.

The mayor's daughter said Thursday: "I have been extended an offer but I have never formally accepted that offer."

Daughter Working Elsewhere

She acknowledged that she applied for the job, but said she has not signed any documents, such as federal wage and tax forms, that would indicate she has accepted the hotel's offer. She said she is working "at a small luxury hotel," which she declined to name, in downtown Los Angeles.

Mayor Tucker said: "If the hotel did hire any relatives of mine, I had nothing to do with it."

Nuby said he had nothing either "directly or indirectly" to do with his wife's hiring. He also said that his wife has considerable work experience that qualifies her for a job at the hotel, though he declined to elaborate. Darlinda Nuby, reached at the hotel, declined to comment, as did Jona M. Liebrecht, president of Lazben Hotel Management Co.

The hotel and convention center, a joint venture between the city and a private developer, is next to the 91 Freeway at Alameda Street. The developer, Naftali Deutsch of Beverly Hills, has received loans and other financial subsidies from the city.

Originally, the hotel was to open in May, 1988, but construction delays and money disagreements between the city and developer pushed the opening back to next month. Deutsch and his family control the Lazben Hotel Management Co. and several construction and development firms involved in the project.

The delays and city loans to the developer made the hotel project, along with the city's entire redevelopment plans, a lightning rod for criticism, which became intense this spring when the mayor and two council members ran for reelection. Only the mayor survived the election contest. The councilmen, Robert Adams and Floyd James, were defeated.

Kimbrew managed the campaign of first-term Councilwoman Patricia Moore, who defeated James.

The hotel's personnel decisions came to light last week when the hotel management submitted a list of employees to the City Council. The developer had promised that Compton residents would be hired for a majority of hotel jobs, and Councilman Maxcy Filer had asked for a status report.

Holifield and Kimbrew mentioned Nuby in their verbal comments during the press conference but their written statement about nepotism was aimed solely at the mayor. They could offer no evidence, however, that Tucker had anything to do with his daughter being offered a job at the hotel.

For too long, the Holifield-Kimbrew statement said, Compton has "been vulnerable to accusations of public officials profiting from their positions as public servants." The two men complained that nepotism is widespread in city government and pointed out that the mayor's daughter-in-law, Robin Tucker, works in the city manager's office. However, Robin Tucker worked for the city before she married the mayor's son, Walter Jr.

Holifield and Kimbrew also complained that William James, the brother of former Councilman James, got a job as the city's contract compliance officer while James was in office.

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