INSIDE INGLEWOOD - Inglewood mayor James T. Butts was ejected from a meeting on Friday night by residents and security.
The incident occurred after two of the mayor's paid agents were previously escorted out of the meeting in separate incidents.
The series of events occurred at debate meant to be between Inglewood councilman Mike Stevens and Butts’ hand-picked candidate, George Dotson. Dotson refused to appear and the "debate" turned into an impromptu town hall meeting.
The evening was off to a notable start when one of the mayor’s people showed up to distribute a political newsletter that is owned by one of the mayor's paid political consultants, Willie Brown. When asked why he was there, the unidentified man started yelling and cursing. He was asked to leave and complied only when escorted outside by security guards.
Later in the evening Dotson’s campaign manager, Oliver T. Unaka, disrupted the meeting and was escorted out. Unaka owns Elite PR Media out of Corona, CA, and is best known for being paid by Inglewood Unified School District (IUSD) to promote its Measure GG campaign. He has also advocated for commercial development in Butt’s neighborhood, an area that is part of IUSD.
According to a November 2011 announcement by the California State Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), “the FPPC found that the Committee to Elect Oliver T. Unaka failed to file semiannual campaign disclosure statements for the periods of March 17, 2010 through June 30, 2010 and July 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010 with the City of Eastvale.”
As Unaka was escorted out, he turned to one of the senior citizens in the crowd and told her, “I’m gonna find you and mess you up.”
The resident who had been threatened, 84-year-old retired school teacher Theola Gardner, stood up and announced to the crowd what Unaka had told her as he was gathering his items from his front-row chair. The threat was heard by two near-by attendees, one of whom is a friend of Unaka.
A few minutes after Unaka’s ejection, James T. Butts hurriedly entered the room, threw a large box full of DVDs on the moderator’s table and jumped in front of residents awaiting their turn at the mic to ask a question.
Within seconds, the crowd was protesting loudly. The primary point was a DVD that the mayor had produced using nearly $10,000 to produce and an unknown amount to mail out from city hall despite its being labeled “Paid for by James Butts for Mayor 2014” and displaying the city’s seal on the wrapper.
Under CA elections codes 18702.3 and 18901, mailing out campaign literature using a city seal, with an elected official's address and using city money for postage is illegal. It is also illegal to use the city's general funds for producing the video, a violation that was uncovered when the city paid Artistic resources Co. more than $5k to produce the video that was later mailed out to promote the political campaigns of Butts and Dotson. Handing out such campaign literature is also a violation of state elections law.
As Butts was escorted out, two other women who had been sitting alone elsewhere in the room departed with the mayor.
Butts did not return calls or e-mails for comment.
Inglewood has its hotly contested run-off election this Tuesday, June 11. At stake are several billion dollars regarding the future of the Forum, Hollywood Park, LAX expansion, water rights and Inglewood Unified School District.
The entire series of events was caught on video. The segments of Butts being ejected from the meeting can be viewed here.
(Randall Fleming is a veteran journalist and magazine publisher. He has worked at and for the New York Post, the Brooklyn Spectator and the Los Feliz Ledger. He is currently editor-in-chief at the Morningside Park Chronicle, a monthly newspaper based in Inglewood, CA and on-line at www.MorningsideParkChronicle.com)
Vol 11 Issue 47
Pub: June 11, 2013