February 07, 2013
LAWT Staff Report
The short definition of hoodwink is tricking somebody, deceiving or duping them by trickery. Bamboozle refers to cheating somebody, tricking or deceiving through misleading statements or falsehoods, or perplexing somebody, to make them confused.
In other words, if you cheat, deceive, dupe, take-in, con, fool, or swindle someone, they may rightfully say that they have been hoodwinked or bamboozled.
As the city of Inglewood braces to receive several billion dollars in investment capital over the next few years and as some candidates, elected officials, and political campaign strategists position themselves for victory or large consulting fees, it certainly appears that Inglewood residents are being positioned to be hoodwinked and bamboozled.
Prompted by a review of a November 2012 edition of “The Morningside Park CHRONICLE,” a 12-page publication, represented as a newspaper that is ‘Informing Inglewood and the community,’ the three, front page articles offer the first suggestion that Inglewood residents are being deceived.
The banner article suggested that Mayor James T. Butts and council members Eloy Morales and Ralph Franklin may have violated the Brown Act, an act passed by the California State Legislature in 1953 that guaranteed the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies, by attending a public Town Hall Meeting on October 29th. There was no violation of the Brown Act and the article was clearly intended to suggest that the three elected officials acted unlawfully.
The article beneath the front page fold, at first appeared to be a report of the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s journey from the airport, through the streets of Inglewood, on its way to the California Science Center in Exposition Park. However, the article ended with negative suggestions that the mayor erred in the execution of the shuttle’s transport.
The fact is, the shuttle’s transport through the city of Inglewood, was the largest outdoor event in the city’s history that brought-out not only the best of the citizen’s pride but an international spotlight on the ‘city of champions.’ In addition, the city realized over $550,000 in product and services and a two-for-one tree replacement along the shuttle route.
The final article on the front page suggested a fake fire alarm, instigated by an Inglewood City Council member. There was no report of the city’s faulty fire alarm system that has had a history of sporadic false alarm alerts. According to Michael Falkow, Assistant City Manager of the City of Inglewood;
“After meeting with LA County Fire to allow them entry to the fire alarm panel outside the west entrance to City Hall to cancel the alarm, Randall Flemming (the Chronicle reporter) and a number of residents/Council meeting attendees had congregated at the East entrance to City Hall by the City Clerk's office. Flemming made mention that he thought the fire alarm had been intentionally set off, and I specifically told him that was not the case, as the representatives from LA County Fire had just informed me it was a faulty panel on the sixth floor, which was empty at that time because the tenant office was closed and the State Assemblyman and State Senator offices were also closed for the day. Mr. Flemming didn't want to believe me, as he appeared to have a preconceived notion that it was done intentionally. I responded to him that it would be illegal to do so, and he said that didn't matter. I chose to not get into a verbal wrestling match with him, but I offered to meet with him at any time to discuss any issues he might have. To date he has not taken me up on my offer.”
The publication’s masthead lists no street address or telephone number and lists, among others, Judy Dunlap and Mike Stevens, as contributing writers. Its publisher, Teka-Lark Fleming, in her inaugural editorial, vows to deliver “an objective view of Inglewood, a view of the city that represents the entire community...,” however, the tabloid is devoid of direct quotes, factual insertions, substantiated or corroborated information, and filled with back-handed insinuation and innuendo Hoodwinked? Bamboozled? Inglewood residents and voters beware.
It would certainly appear as though the publication was created and is supported by Council member Judy Dunlap, the veteran council member who was recently exposed for misleading her Los Angeles County Federation of Labor by claiming endorsements from elected officials that have not endorsed her, among them Board of Equalization Chair Jerome Horton and Yvonne Horton, the City Clerk. She falsely claimed the endorsement of the LA County fire fighters Local 1014. Dunlap claims among her talents, the ability to channel the spirits of the dead. She claimed the endorsement of her long time adversary and former Inglewood Mayor and State Senator Ed Vincent. It would be difficult to have obtained his endorsement for this election since he passed away in 2012. She also claims the endorsement of a deceased minister, Rev. Merriweather.
Dunlap’s record on the council would be an excellent opportunity for the publication to pursue. There have been questions about her leadership for some time, specifically about the authenticity of her Inglewood residence, her repeated failure to vote for the payment of the city’s bills, her perpetual criticism of how poorly the city is managed, even though she has served on the council for over 20 years, yet, a blatant absence of any real accomplishments that benefit the city or even the citizens in the district that she serves.
Aside from her signature fedora, it was difficult to find an Inglewood resident capable of describing any characteristic or other accomplishment or display of leadership that Dunlap has demonstrated. On the other hand, her criticism of the city’s leadership call into question her perception of what Inglewood residents have a right to expect from their elected leadership.
One source, who asked to remain anonymous, suggested that the Chronicle was created by Dunlap and her longtime campaign staffer, Mike Triggs, a political consultant who reportedly served on the Inglewood School Board when Dunlap was a teacher and before she was elected to the city council. It has been suggested that he serves as her business community liaison and often brokers his relationship with Dunlap as an opportunity for prospective businesses to receive favorable support on behalf of their initiatives.
Butts was supported by Dunlap in his campaign for the mayor’s office and was introduced to the community by Dunlap, in a formal town hall meeting after he was elected, but before he was sworn-in. He explained where their professional relationship hit a brick wall.
“I assured Ms. Dunlap that I would support the return of community television to the City of Inglewood,” said Butts. “I believe that is why she supported me for mayor. The rift began when I refused to support her bid to hire Milton Brown, who business is named ICTV (Inglewood Community Television), at a cost of $20,000 per month, with Inglewood residents footing the bill.”
The mayor also explained that he discovered, and asked the City Manager to subsequently end, a practice that allowed Brown to continue to receive payments without a City Council approved contract. Apparently Brown would provide services, without a specific contract, and later filed a claim for damages against the city in order to be paid. The claim was later brought before the council in closed session for approval.
Another deceitful assertion advanced by the Chronicle, (in a full-color insert featuring Councilman Mike Stevens), was the notion that the mayor railroaded an ordinance amending the city’s municipal code to establish daytime council meetings, a measure opposed by Chronicle contributing writers Dunlap and Stevens.
According to the City Clerk, Yvonne Horton, Stevens’ political insert, in what is supposedly a newspaper, is false and misleading. She states: “My office received a petition from a senior citizen signed by 131 residents of the city requesting the City Council hold two council meetings per month in the afternoon. My office verified the authenticity of the names using voter registration information and presented the petition to the City Council for their review and action as the Council deemed appropriate.”
The city will soon establish two daytime and two nighttime meetings each month and if there is a fifth Tuesday in the month, it will be a night meeting.
Another disturbing, and completely false connection asserted by the Chronicle is the notion that Butts is connected to former City Manager Tim Wannamaker, through an employee who served as Wannaker’s assistant, before his resignation from the city of Inglewood and the subsequent discovery of his misuse of credit cards and federal funds in Buffalo, New York.
“Wannamaker had departed the city of Inglewood before my arrival as mayor,” said Butts. “I saw him only once at a reception when he was hired by the city while I worked for LAWA and we only exchanged polite greetings. Furthermore, there is no information to support any suggestion that he committed any crimes as the City Manager in Inglewood.” Butts continued. “This is just another example of this supposed newspaper presenting false statements in an attempt to deceive Inglewood voters.”
Inglewood elected officials are required to reside in the city of Inglewood. They are also required to file certain campaign financial disclosure statements on a regular basis and those filings are a matter of public record.
One source, who asked to remain anonymous, indicated that the residence Dunlap lists on her candidate for office statement has not had water service since 2009 and there is no evidence that anyone lives there. Furthermore, in violation of State law, Dunlap has failed to file her obligatory quarterly Campaign Financial Disclosure Form 460 for the past eight years.
Inglewood residents are well advised to understand the words hoodwinked and bamboozled before blindly embracing a publication that is, according to one Inglewood elected official, “a very acrimonious and destructive publication whose purpose is to de-stabilize confidence in those who serve the citizens and keeps people in fear all the time.”
Finally, one should be leery of a publisher who offers-up a contrived series of articles disguised as ‘an objective view of Inglewood, a view of the city, purportedly represents the entire community.’