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Compton pay scandal raises questions about how part-time city leaders should be compensated

Compton mayor Aja Brown standing in front of the Martin Luther King Memorial near Compton City Hall
Compton mayor Aja Brown standing in front of the Martin Luther King Memorial near Compton City Hall
Stephen Hoffman/KPCC

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The mayor and city council members of Compton have courted local controversy as scrutiny from the DA’s office brought issues of wages and compensation to the fore.

At issue is whether these elected officials should be paid additional public appropriations for their attendance at meetings for commissions of which they are members. The positions of mayor and city council member for Compton are part-time positions that pay $63,000 and $55,800, respectively.

The DA has cited an proliferation of sessions that “are often of very short duration. Many Housing commission meetings last only one minute.” The mayor has been paid thousands of dollars per month for attending commissions on Gaming, Housing Development, Compton Public Finance, and more.

The following is an excerpt of Compton Mayor Aja Brown’s response to the allegations:

The city charter does not state that council members should serve “part-time” which is oftentimes stated in error. Now, in the current city structure, I can only recommend policy changes to the council body. If the city council as a body, does not decide to take action on policy changes that require a charter change, the next option is to bypass the council through a signature-gathering effort (voter petition) to force a special election. Unfortunately, the city council did not support giving voters their opportunity to vote on the reform package in November 2015, which not only addressed reducing council salaries, but included a 1 cent sales tax measure to repave every city street, hire additional firefighters, purchase critical safety equipment, improve street lighting, refurbish city parks, provide dedicated funding for youth programs, gang intervention, and more.

How should local officials be compensated to avoid controversy? Should all local officials be full-time? What benefits, if any, should they be provided?


Bob Stern, Former president of the L.A.-based Center for Governmental Studies and principal co-author of California’s Political Reform Act, passed by 70% of the state’s voters in 1974. Stern was also the first general counsel of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (1975-83)

Karen Foshay, Senior investigative producer, Al Jazeera