IS COMPTON’S ASSISTANT CITY MANAGER QUALIFIED? WELL, SHE TEACHES SUNDAY SCHOOL AT THE MAYOR’S CHURCHBy Allison Jean Eaton
Compton’s new assistant city manager is Verna D. Porter, a 59-year-old woman of limited and checkered experience in city government and unknown education who lives next door to Mayor Eric J. Perrodin’s mother and teaches Sunday school at his church.
City Manager Willie Norfleet appointed Porter on Oct. 19, despite the fact that the city council meeting that night was cancelled due to a lack of a quorum.
Several sources at City Hall have told The Compton Bulletin that Porter does not have a college degree. At an Oct. 5 council meeting, however, Perrodin insisted that she not only has a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, but also a Masters degree in sociology and a certificate in project management.
The Bulletin spoke with Porter briefly on Monday. She said she’s “excited to be able to serve the city of Compton,” but she would not answer any questions regarding her education or appointment, referring such inquiries to Norfleet.
“You might want to contact the city manager’s office for that information,” Porter said. The Bulletin was unable to contact Norfleet before press time
Compton has no set requirements for the job of assistant city manager. According to the city clerk’s office, the city doesn’t even have a job description on file.
Porter first began working for Compton about two years ago. In late November 2007 she was granted a $90,000 consulting contract to work on several of the mayor’s pet projects, which a staff report called “high priority projects that require immediate attention.”
The projects included improving street lighting citywide, ensuring the city complies with the general plan’s open space requirements (which mainly focused on the mayor’s plans to transform the Southern California Edison right-of-way that lies along the south side of Greenleaf Boulevard into a parkway), disaster preparedness coordination and ensuring all homes and buildings in the city had clearly visible addresses.
That same staff report described Porter as a “qualified project manager.”
When the contract was up, however, no report was provided detailing any progress she might have made, and neither the parkway nor the street lighting project had been initiated.
When her contract ended, Porter worked on the Perrodin’s re-election campaign. According to Perrodin’s campaign contribution statements for the April 2009 primary election, Porter received $3,703 for office expenses and campaign fliers for the mayor’s candidate for the 4th District seat, Amos Clay. She donated $500 to Perrodin’s re-election bid, according to the statements.
Porter also worked on Clay’s failed campaign in his bid for the 4th District council seat. She loaned Clay’s election committee $500 and was compensated $487 dollars for office expenses and campaign literature and mailings, according to Clay’s campaign contribution statements for the same time period. Her daughter had served as Clay’s council liaison during his tenure as the council’s appointed 4th District representative. Following Clay’s defeat, Perrodin fired his longtime secretary, Karen Haywood, and hired Porter’s daughter to fill the position.
Days after that election, Porter was officially hired as a city employee in a move that circumvented the civil service process. This was accomplished when a position paying roughly $100,000 annually was created for Porter in the city manager’s office that was written into the 2009-10 fiscal year budget.
The civil service process aims to ensure that city employees are hired based on fitness and merit. It entails candidates for employment in a classified City Hall position filling out an application to ensure they meet the stipulated education and past experience requirements. Qualified candidates then must complete written and oral civil service examinations. Those who pass are interviewed, and the city hires from the field of interviewees the candidate it feels would best fill the position.
One of Porter’s first assignments as a city employee was to serve as the event coordinator for the 2009 Gospel Concert, which the mayor said she organized this year, as well. Perrodin said Porter also coordinates his quarterly Mayor and Pastors Breakfasts.
Street lighting was partially addressed about six months into Porter’s full-time employment at City Hall. According to a Jan. 6, 2009, staff report, the city hired and paid Albert Grover & Associates $112,500 for the project design and $4.825 million for construction related to the street lighting project. The redevelopment agency covered 60 percent of the total cost, while the Lighting and Landscaping District covered the remaining 40 percent. Another $125,000 was to cover contingencies, according to the report.
It is not known exactly when the city put the brakes on the project, but the installation of the new streetlights was allegedly halted after it was discovered that the streetlights Porter selected were not adequate to fulfill the mayor’s goal of increasing nighttime visibility. The 1st District is the only section of town that received the new streetlights.
The Public Works Department in early September announced that a new citywide street lighting project was to soon begin at a cost of roughly $3 million. Southern California Edison has agreed to cover about half, or $1.5 million, officials said.
The parkway project was also announced during the Sept. 7 council meeting as finally moving forward.
It is not known when, but Porter was eventually moved to a position in the Public Works Department, where she had worked until her appointment to assistant city manager last week.
According to a city employee fee schedule posted on the city’s website, www.comptoncity.org, Porter is now making $164,488 annually, plus benefits.