Inglewood finds itself in a major controversy that shows how money in politics can sometimes have detrimental effects on the way government bodies run.
The city’s council approved a contract a few years ago that would allow Inglewood to hire a waste-collection company over the course of 10 years. Normally, there is a bidding war amongst contractors attempting to land this lucrative job, and the city chooses the company that offers the best deal at the lowest price. It seems that Inglewood hired a company that was going to charge the city more than other businesses would have according to an article recently reported by the L.A. Times.
The right people asked questions and found a link between the hired company and the newly elected mayor, James Butts Jr. The link in question was the mayor’s brother, Michael Butts.
The company in question was the Consolidated Disposal Services. The company decided to hire the mayor’s brother with a salary of $72,000 a year and, suspiciously, this was the company that received Inglewood’s city contract.
It did not take long for complaints to be filed that accused the mayor of wrongdoing. The bidders allege that the mayor implied things would go well for them if they chose to hire his out-of-work brother. Every contractor knows how lucrative a city contract can be, which is part of the reason contractors go in a bidding war whenever a city approves these kinds of jobs. It is easy to see how a contractor might be tempted by the mayor’s proposal if it guaranteed 10-year job security.
The complaints about the mayor’s indiscretions were filed with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office in 2012. It has been a long time since then, but the allegations have finally been made public.
Mayor Butts was asked about these allegations over the phone, and he denied any wrongdoing. He was a bit curt with the interviewer but did opt out of voting on the contract. The mayor also sent out an email that explained that his brother’s employment with the company that won the bid was completely unrelated.
Of course, the district attorney and the FBI looked into these allegations, but these investigations went no where. There were no official charges filed. Both bodies of government are not denying a problem, but they are not confirming one either. At the moment, Michael Butts is still employed by this company, and Inglewood is still working with the contractor in question.
Legal experts who were asked about the allegations said that if these complaints were true, then it would be a conflict of interest. The mayor has been saying that he understood the optics of the situation once his brother was hired by the company in question, which is the reason he opted out of the final vote to hire this contractor. The problem is he did vote a couple of times in favor of the Consolidated company and only avoiding voting in the end.
Judy Dunlap, one of the people in charge of voting to hire this company or not, voted against them. She was also one of the people who sent a complaint letter to the district attorney to shed some light on what she believed to be a conflict of interest.
Some of the mayor’s actions were investigated by the FBI and the city’s investigators, but the matter was closed on March 6, 2013. It seems that there was not enough information to prove any wrongdoing though the situation was highly suspect. The matter may be closed but questions definitely remain.