Compton council fires city manager

The Compton City Council voted early Wednesday to fire its top administrator, the second time the panel has terminated its city manager in three years. The firing comes at a time when the mayor is under fire from some residents for missing council meetings.

After a closed-door meeting that ended about 1:30 a.m., the council voted unanimously to fire Charles Evans. City Controller Willie Norfleet was appointed to take his place.

Evans and Norfleet could not be reached for comment. Council members declined to discuss the reasons for Evans’ firing.

“He did a good job for us while he was here, and I think it was time to go in a new direction,” Mayor Eric Perrodin said afterward, adding that the city would launch a search for a new, permanent city manager.

The top priority for the new city administrator should be to reestablish an independent local police department, Perrodin said.

The City Council voted in June to end its contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and form a Compton Police Department, which was disbanded a decade ago amid political turmoil and violent-crime rates that had spiraled out of control. Perrodin, a former Compton police officer, has been a strong proponent of bringing back the municipal force.

Officials said the new city manager would continue several initiatives already in the works, including public works improvements, the creation of more parks and an effort to woo Chinese businesses to Compton.

Before the council’s meeting Tuesday, local activists, who are pushing to recall Perrodin and Councilwoman Lillie Dobson and to remove City Atty. Craig Cornwell and City Clerk Alita Godwin, staged a protest in front of City Hall. One of their biggest complaints about Perrodin is his absenteeism.

A Times review of city records shows that Perrodin was absent from board and commission meetings nearly two-thirds of the time, attending only 59 of 162 scheduled sessions between July 7, 2009, and July of this year. Perrodin said he missed more meetings than he would have liked to because of his busy schedule as a prosecutor, but that meetings were not the most crucial part of his job as mayor.

As for the firing of Evans, some of Perrodin’s opponents said that the mayor had a history of micromanaging city managers and that the latest termination was another example of him overstepping his authority.

But Perrodin said his detractors overstate his power.

“I only have one vote,” he said. “I can’t hire and fire anybody.”

Evans took over in 2007, when then-City Manager Barbara Kilroy was terminated. He had previously been an assistant city manager under Kilroy.

Evans’ base annual salary was set at $185,000, but his total taxable compensation was about $292,000 last year, according to city records. His contract specifies a severance package of six months’ salary.

At the same meeting, the council angered activists by voting to exclude the public comment section of council meetings from cable television broadcasts. Officials said they acted because of complaints from residents who said the lengthy comment sessions discouraged them from watching.

But some residents, and Councilman Dr. Willie O. Jones, who cast the only dissenting vote, said they saw the move as an infringement on the public’s right to be heard.