The April 6 Inglewood Wal-Mart vote that split African-American leaders throughout L.A. County is now presenting a test case to new Los Angeles Sentinel publisher Danny Bakewell in the form of a retraction demand from Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn.
In a news conference on the day of the vote, Dorn called on the weekly African-American newspaper to retract a statement by longtime Sentinel columnist Larry Aubry that the mayor “reportedly accepted at least $40,000 from Wal-Mart.”
Dorn told the L.A. Weekly that Aubry’s assertion in his Sentinel column was “an out and out lie on [Aubry’s] part that he created himself.” The Inglewood mayor said neither he nor his campaign committee had accepted any contributions from Wal-Mart, the discount retail chain that failed to win voter’s approval to allow the massive project without environmental review or public hearings. Dorn acknowledged accepting “about $2,000” in contributions in 2002 or 2003 from Rothbart Development or its principals, who would have been the developers of the Wal-Mart project.
Dorn, an attorney and former judge, said he had hired a lawyer and that Bakewell had been served with a demand to retract a libelous statement. “It better be a retraction,” Dorn said, “or I’m going to sue [Aubry] and the Sentinel.”
The Wal-Mart project became the central political issue in Inglewood last year and provoked clashes in City Council races and battles in council sessions over whether to permit the huge development. In public meetings, Dorn repeatedly called for Councilman Ralph Franklin, a business agent for a local of avowed Wal-Mart opponents United Food and Commercial Workers, to recuse himself. Dorn himself insisted that he was neutral on the matter until several days before the vote when he declared support for the project in response “to requests from my constituents.”
Bakewell told the Weekly on Tuesday that there would be no retraction in this week’s edition.
A community activist best known for his work with the Brotherhood Crusade, Bakewell became editor of the Sentinel last month after his family completed purchase of a controlling interest. He has promised to invigorate the paper, which has served Los Angeles’ black community since the 1930s.
Aubry, who is the father of L.A. Weekly staff writer Erin Aubry Kaplan, said he believed his sources who told him that Dorn accepted Wal-Mart contributions. He added that he considered Dorn’s denial misleading. “It is my contention that a contribution from Rothbart is tantamount to a contribution from Wal-Mart, as it relates to Measure 04-A,” Aubry said.