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Robert C. Farrell

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Robert C. Farrell

Robert C. Farrell
Member of the Los Angeles City Council from the 8th District
In office
Preceded by Billy G. Mills
Succeeded by Mark Ridley-Thomas
Personal details
Born (1936-10-01) October 1, 1936
Natchez, Mississippi
Political party Democratic
Residence Los Angeles, California

Robert C. Farrell (born 1936) was a journalist and a member of the Los Angeles City Council from 1974 until 1991.


  • Biography 1
  • Politics 2
    • Campaigns 2.1
    • City Council 2.2
      • Elections 2.2.1
      • Positions 2.2.2
        • Liberal
        • Crime
        • Other
      • Accusations 2.2.3
    • State Assembly race 2.3
  • References 3


Farrell was born in Natchez, Mississippi, on October 1, 1936, and moved with his family to New Orleans and Newark, New Jersey, before settling in Los Angeles, where he attended Los Angeles High School, graduating in 1954. He enlisted in the Navy and in 1956 was promoted to midshipman. After his service, he received a Navy scholarship to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Near Eastern Studies at UCLA in 1961. He returned to UCLA in 1962, where he studied journalism.

Farrell began his journalistic career as a reporter for the black-oriented California Eagle newspaper and on the Los Angeles Sentinel. He was also a correspondent for Jet magazine. In 1966 he published his own newspaper in Watts, the Star-Review. He also helped research and prepare a UCLA report on hard-core unemployment in South Los Angeles.[1]

Farrell was married to Essiebea Farrell, and they had one daughter, Mia Ann. They separated in April 1984 and were divorced in September 1986.[1][2]



Farrell's first involvement in political life was in the Tom Bradley's mayoral campaigns.[1]

City Council


See also List of Los Angeles municipal election returns, 1975 and after.

Farrell was employed as deputy to 8th District City Councilman Billy G. Mills,[1] and when Mills was appointed as a Superior Court judge in 1974, Farrell was elected to succeed him. In that era (1975), the district "ran in a north-south line in South-Central Los Angeles, from Adams and Jefferson Blvds. on the north, to Normandie and Central Avenue on the west, 118th St. on the south, and Arlington and Van Ness on the west." It suffered "some of the worst crime, unemployment and housing problems in the city."[3]

Farrell served for seventeen years altogether, although he did face one recall election—in 1978—and was threatened with another ten years later.. Recall proponents criticized Farrell for "dirty streets and alleys" and a controversial remark he had made the previous year supposedly indicating disregard for the rights of senior citizens. He beat the 1978 recall threat by 9,263 votes to 5,165[4] The second recall attempt, in 1988, failed when not enough signatures were gathered to put the question on the ballot.[5]



Farrell was noted as a liberal who believed in an "active, interventionist role for government." This, it was said, distinguished him from other African-American council members—"Gilbert Lindsay and occasionally David Cunningham"—who relied more on the private sector in solving problems.[4]


Farrell was insistent in pushing the Los Angeles Police Department to end what he considered racism in the department,[6] and he urged an investigation of the controversial "choke hold" used by the police. But he also waged what was called a "personal war on crime and violence," and he said that "there is more to an anti-crime fight than law enforcement." For example, he called for an honor farm where convicted youths could earn money to compensate their victims. He thought of a municipal lottery to finance an anti-crime unit, and he advocated closing Nickerson Gardens and other crime-ridden public housing projects.[7]

At one point, Farrell had to stand and apologize to members of the Southside Serial Killer police task force for questioning whether the "best and the brightest" had been assigned to tracking down the murderer of eighteen women in South Los Angeles between 1983 and 1985.[8]

Farrell wrote a proposal for a special property tax that would be levied on South Los Angeles residents to pay for additional police, but after public opposition developed, he changed his mind and said he would no longer work for it, Proposition 7 on the June 1987 ballot.[9][10]


Fluoridation. Farrell was among the majority of the ten City Council members who in 1974 voted in favor of fluoridating the city's water supply. Five were opposed.

Housing. The councilman stressed the need to improve existing dwellings, rather than to build new housing. "What we can count on is what we can see and what we can touch," he said in 1979.

Middle East. On a visit to Israel in 1984, Farrell warned that the expulsion of a group of African-American immigrants known as the Black Hebrews, as threatened by an official, "would produce resentment in America's black communities and would damage Israel's standing in American public opinion."[11] Along with Compton Mayor Walter R. Tucker and three other U.S. mayors, he made a trip to Saudi Arabia in 1988, funded by the Association of Arab-American University Graduates. The trip was briefly controversial when it was erroneously reported that he had not filed the proper financial documents with the city concerning the visit.[12][13]

Development. Despite the opposition of residents who claimed the project would destroy a block of historic homes in North University Park, Farrell supported and in 1987 voted for a shopping center south of Adams Boulevard between Vermont and Menlo avenues.[14] He acknowledged that he had received "several thousand dollars" in political contributions from the developers "over the years" but denied that "defenseless homeowners" were being exploited.[15][16]


In December 1987 the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner published a series of stories that alleged Farrell improperly provided numerous public benefits to a small social service agency controlled by his wife in an apparent attempt to satisfy his alimony obligations to her (during this period Farrell and his wife, Essiebea, were in the middle of their divorce).

The first of these exclusive stories was published on Dec. 4.[17] These stories revealed Farrell had arranged for his wife’s agency, the Improvement Association of the Eighth District (IAED), to receive a quarter of a million dollar gift of real estate from Security Pacific Bank. The bank originally notified Mayor Tom Bradley’s office that it was proposing to give the property (a branch office and an adjoining parking lot in Farrell’s council district) to the city. When Farrell learned of the proposal, he persuaded the bank to donate the properties instead to IAED.[18] Shortly after that gift was completed Farrell claimed he needed a new field office to serve his constituents; he then proceeded to arrange for the city to lease the same former Security Pacific properties from IAED for this purpose. Although Farrell claimed otherwise, several city officials involved in the lease deal said Farrell never disclosed to them that the lease was with his wife’s agency.[19] The city paid IAED $2000-a-month to rent the former bank building and $400-a-month for the parking lot. The Herald-Examiner investigation also discovered IAED sold the parking lot to a developer shortly after acquiring it from Security Pacific, and yet IAED continued to receive rent from the city for that property for 21 months after that sale. The day after that story appeared, IAED reimbursed the city $8,400 for the rent it had improperly received from the parking lot deal.[20]

Other public funds went to IAED from the city, including a $50,000 federal grant approved by the City Council; Farrell was chairman of the council's grants committee at the time. Farrell also put two of Essiebea's sisters and his daughter on the City Hall payroll for different periods, and he funneled $53,500 of his campaign funds to IAED. Farrell told the Herald-Examiner: "There's no scheme....It would be foolish, absolutely foolish, for me to do that."[18]

In the middle of this controversy, Farrell, joined by local African-American leaders, held a news conference on the First Street steps of City Hall where he claimed the "attacks" on him were part of a wider, national effort by a white-dominated media to marginalize outspoken African-American leaders like himself. During this period, a recall effort against Farrell was also ongoing, led by Farrell's own African-American constituents and fueled in part by the many disclosures about Farrell's misconduct in office.

Despite Farrell's protestations, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner opened a "review" of Farrell's conduct, as revealed in the Herald-Examiner, that eventually became a full investigation.[21] (Also see, "DA Takes Closer Look at Farrell's Aid to Ex-Wife's Agency," Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, December 16, 1987, p. A-8).

In Feb. 1991, three years after the stories first broke, Reiner's office dropped its investigation. "Farrell's recent announcement that he would not run for his 8th District council seat in the April 9 election had no bearing on the investigation, said district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons. She declined to say whether Farrell's official actions constituted an appearance of a conflict of interest. ′We make a determination about whether the law has been violated,′ Gibbons said. ′It is up to others to make moral judgments.′"[22]

In 1988, Schwada was nominated for a Los Angeles Press Club award for his investigative reporting on the Farrell story. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner was not around to report or remark on the decision of Reiner's office; the paper folded on Nov. 1, 1989.

State Assembly race

In 1990, he suffered an upset defeat when he lost to Marguerite Archie-Hudson in his bid to represent the 48th district of the California State Assembly. The seat was previously held by Maxine Waters.[23][24]


  1. ^ a b c d Los Angeles Public Library reference file
  2. ^ December 17, 1987, page B-1Los Angeles Times,Glenn F. Bunting, "Gift to City Allegedly Detoured by Farrell,"
  3. ^ March 23, 1975, page E-2Los Angeles Times,Doug Shuit, "5 Council Incumbents Coasting,"
  4. ^ a b August 17, 1978, page F-5Los Angeles Times,Henry Weinstein, "Farrell Win Shows Incumbent's Power,"
  5. ^ May 12, 1988, page C-1Los Angeles Times,Ted Vollmer, "Drive to Recall Farrell Fails,"
  6. ^ November 23, 1980, page A-23Los Angeles Times,Kristina Lindgren, "LAPD Discipline Probe Urged,"
  7. ^ February 14, 1981, page OC-A-18Los Angeles Times,Sid Bernstein, "Farrell's Drive on Crime Hits Snag,"
  8. ^ August 7, 1986, page OC-A-6Los Angeles Times,"Councilman Apologizes to LAPD for Remarks on Murder Inquiry,"
  9. ^ March 11, 1987, page C-4Los Angeles Times,"Unfair Tax" (editorial),
  10. ^ May 19, 1987, page D-3Los Angeles Times,Scott Harris, "Farrell Says Staff Shake-Up Is Not Related to Tax Plan,"
  11. ^ May 22, 1984, page B-6Los Angeles Times,Norman Kempster, "L.A. Official Warns Israel Not to Oust Black Hebrews,"
  12. ^ January 7, 1988, page N-1Los Angeles Times,Glenn Bunting, "Farrell Failed to Report Free 1986 Trip to Mideast,"
  13. ^ January 8, 1988, page 1Los Angeles Times,Glenn Bunting, "Farrell Did File a Report on Mideast Trip, City Clerk Says,"
  14. ^ [1] Location on Bing Maps
  15. ^ January 8, 1987, page C-1Los Angeles Times,Frank Clifford, "Farrell Seeks CRA Aid for Supporters' Shop Center Project,"
  16. ^ January 22, 1987, page A-6Los Angeles Times,Frank Clifford, "Farrell Supports Mall Despite Wave of Protest,"
  17. ^ John Schwada, "Agency Farrell Set Up Tied to Rent Scam," Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, December 4, 1987, p. A-1
  18. ^ a b John Schwada, "Farrell Voted Ex-Wife's Agency Over $100,000," Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, December 15, 1987, p. A-1
  19. ^ John Schwada, "Group Tied to Farrell Repays $8,400 Rent," Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, December 5, 1987, p. A-1
  20. ^ ibid.
  21. ^ John Schwada, "Rent Scandal May Spark Criminal Probe," Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, December 10, 1987, p. A-1
  22. ^ Glenn F. Bunting, "Farrell Cleared on Conflict of Interest Charge Investigation, Los Angeles Times, February 6, 1991, p. B-3
  23. ^
  24. ^

Preceded by
Billy G. Mills
Los Angeles City Council
8th District

Succeeded by
Mark Ridley-Thomas
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