Despite being paid one of the highest salaries in Los Angeles County for a part-time mayor, Eric Perrodin of Compton is often missing in action.
Between July 7, 2009, and July 13 of this year, Perrodin was absent from board and commission meetings nearly two-thirds of the time, attending only 59 of 162 scheduled sessions, records show. On some occasions when he did show up, he was more than an hour late or left the meeting in less than half an hour.
But he still got paid.
The mayor and City Council members, who are also part-time employees, are paid more than most of their counterparts in Los Angeles County, records show. Between their monthly council stipend, pay for sitting on four boards and commissions, and auto allowance, Compton council members make $55,800 annually while Perrodin earns $63,000.
The officials get their monthly pay regardless of whether they attend meetings, including for the month of August, when no meetings are held.
During the 12-month period, the mayor, who works full time as a prosecutor with the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, showed up to 25 of 41 council meetings. On nine occasions, he arrived late or left early, according to city records.
His absence at board and commission meetings during the same period was even more glaring. He showed up to only one of 19 Housing Development Commission meetings and nine of 30 sessions of the Public Finance Authority, records show. He attended less than one-third of Gaming Commission meetings and was a no-show for 26 of 42 Urban Community Development Commission meetings.
"It's atrocious," said William Kemp, chairman of the nonprofit Citizens for a Greater Compton, a political action committee that has repeatedly sought to recall Perrodin and other officials. "He's getting paid not to work."
Perrodin, a former Compton police officer, was elected to his first four-year term in 2001. He won reelection in 2005 and again last year.
In an interview with the Times, Perrodin said he misses more council and commission meetings than he would like because of his busy schedule as a prosecutor. But attending meetings was not the most critical part of the job, he said.
"If that's the main focus of your job, then something's wrong," he said. "It goes beyond meetings."
Perrodin said he often meets with city staff and conducts commission-related business as early as 7 a.m. before beginning his prosecutor's job, and in his free time after work. He said he occasionally meets with citizens at his courthouse office during his lunch break.
The revelation of Perrodin's chronic absenteeism comes in the wake of a massive salary scandal in the city of Bell, which triggered several investigations and prompted the resignation of three top officials. A Times review of records revealed that Bell council members were paid tens of thousands of dollars as members of commissions that rarely met or convened only for a few minutes.
Perrodin's pay for his mayoral post pales in comparison to that of Bell council members, who were paid close to $100,000 a year in their part-time jobs. But his earnings are above the norm. Compton is a charter city, not bound by most legal limits on pay in general law cities. A survey of charter city councils in Los Angeles County shows that among cities with part-time mayors, only those in Bell and Vernon were more highly paid than Perrodin, and a majority earned less than $20,000 a year.
As in many other cities, the base pay Compton council members receive — $600 a month — is a small portion of their total earnings.
Members also sit on various boards and commissions that meet two to four times a month. Their stipends ranged from $300 a month for the Urban Community Development Commission to $1,000 per month for both the Housing Development and Gaming commissions. Council members make $1,100 a month for sitting on the Public Finance Authority, while Perrodin is paid $1,700.
In July 2009, the council voted to cut its pay for the development commission to $150 a month for each of its two functions in order to comply with state law. At the same time, officials voted to boost pay for the Public Finance Authority from $400 a month to $1,100 for council members and $1,700 for the mayor, keeping their total pay the same.
The meetings of the highest-paying Compton commissions often lasted the shortest period of time, according to city records. At least 41 commission meetings convened and adjourned in less than 10 minutes. One finance commission meeting on Oct. 20, 2009, opened and closed in a minute. In many cases, the only item on the agenda was approving the minutes from the previous week's meeting.
In January, the gaming, housing and finance commissions approved resolutions allowing the boards to meet twice a month instead of four times a month, and only during the day. The reason for the change is unclear, with the resolution simply stating that "the commission desires to revise the current dates."
The pay of commission members remains the same.
Perrodin's work schedule as a deputy district attorney almost guarantees that he will miss every other set of meetings, since the council and commission sessions alternate weekly between a 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. start time.
The three highest-paying commissions meet only during the day. Prosecutors are expected to cover courts between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to information provided by the District Attorney's Office.
Perrodin acknowledged that it is tough for him to attend daytime meetings because on Tuesdays he has to attend arraignment court. Previously, he said, he had suggested that the start time for all council meetings be changed to 5 p.m., but fellow council members did not approve. He said he planned to revisit the issue.
"The question is, why is he serving if he can't make half the meetings?" said Robert M. Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies, a nonprofit group that encourages citizens to become more engaged in local government. "He should be making the meetings, or he should be changing his job."
Compton activists have tried at least four times to launch a recall campaign against Perrodin, along with Councilwoman Lillie Dobson, City Atty. Craig Cornwell and City Clerk Alita Goodwin.
The most recent attempt was last month. The recall notice for Perrodin alleges misappropriation of public funds, nepotism and voter deception. But Perrodin's opponents accuse him of "stealing" taxpayers' money by taking a salary despite missing meetings.
Perrodin dismissed the recall attempt as an attack by disgruntled political foes.
He said the infrastructure improvements and development projects that he has launched since becoming mayor are proof of his love for the city and his vision of "birthing a new Compton."
"I think I bring a sense of honesty and integrity and veracity to the office," Perrodin said. "Citizens are proud that the mayor is a former cop, and I'm a deputy district attorney."
Opponents said they have complained about Perrodin to various agencies, including the district attorney's office.
Dave Demerjian, head of the district attorney's Public Integrity Division, said his agency would refer any complaints about Perrodin to the California attorney general's office to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.
Jim Finefrock, spokesman for the attorney general's office, which is investigating the salaries and pensions of local jurisdictions in the wake of the Bell scandal, declined to comment on whether his agency is looking at Compton allegations. In general, he said, it is illegal to set up a commission that does no public business for the sole purpose of providing a paycheck to public officials.
But proving that compensation paid to a public body or elected officials is unwarranted is complicated and would require an extensive probe, Finefrock said.
Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.