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Vernon passes reform plan as official pleads guilty to corruption

May 27, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
On the same day a former city administrator pleaded guilty to a corruption charge, the tiny city of Vernon enacted reforms designed to stop corruption and fight off efforts to take away its cityhood.

The Vernon City Council on Thursday approved a plan to slash official salaries and set term limits for council members.

The salaries of council members will be cut from $70,000 to $25,000 a year. Other officials, including the police chief, also will see salary cuts.

Department heads will now earn up to $267,000. In the past, some reportedly made more than $1 million to govern the town of warehouses and packing plants southeast of downtown Los Angeles.

"The reforms take the city of Vernon a lot further toward a more open, transparent and inclusive governance structure," city spokesman Fred MacFarlane said. "The business community will have a role to play, as will representatives of labor, and those are two key constituencies."

Several city officials face corruption charges. On Thursday, former city administrator Bruce Malkenhorst Sr., 76, pleaded guilty to misappropriation of funds and agreed to repay $60,000. He was also fined $10,000, but under his plea agreement, a second count of misappropriating public funds was dismissed.

California's state Assembly approved a measure to revoke incorporation from cities with fewer than 150 residents. The bill now goes to the state Senate, and if passed, Vernon would be dissolved.

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