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Attorney general issues subpoenas in Bell salary scandal


Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown on Monday issued subpoenas for hundreds of salary and employment documents from the city of Bell to determine whether top officials broke laws in awarding out-sized salaries to city administrators and City Council members.

Brown said he was moving swiftly after The Times exposed a pay scandal in the small working-class city to reassure taxpayers that the state was determined to crack down on possible wrongdoing and to warn other cities not to follow Bell's path.

"These outrageous pay practices are an insult to the hard-working people of Bell and have provoked righteous indignation in California and even across the country," Brown said. "I'm determined to get to the bottom of these exorbitant payouts and protect the state's pension system against such abuses, and today's subpoenas are an important step in that process."

The Times reported that Bell's city manager, Robert Rizzo, was earning nearly $800,000 in annual pay, making him the highest-paid government manager in the nation. Police Chief Randy Adams was paid $457,000 a year, and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia made $376,288.

Under pressure from residents, all three have resigned. At a City Council meeting Monday night, Bell residents are expected to push for the resignations of four of the five council members; each of the four makes $100,000 a year for a part-time job.

At the meeting, the council is to consider cutting council member pay, which is now considered significantly higher than that of other cities of the same size.

Brown, in a statement released Monday, said he would examine whether illegality occurred in the Bell cases and whether changes in California law are needed to prevent similar abuses. He said his office will also look at salaries in other local governments to determine if similar abuses are happening.

-- Catherine Saillant

Investigating Bell:  A Times special report:

Is a city manager worth $800,000?

Bell residents are not happy about high salaries

High salaries fuel anger in Bell

Bell council members under investigation for $100,000 salaries

Video: Why do Bell officials make so much money? The Times' Jeff Gottlieb explains.

Bell city manager might be highest paid in nation

Bell council found loophole to allow big salaries

Photos: Protests in Bell

Comments () | Archives (27)

Unfortunately, while sheisty and definitely underhanded, the Council did nothing ILLEGAL. The barely noted vote that got Bell declared a charter city, thereby opening the door for salary abuses, was not illegal. Voting to give themselves ridiculous salaries was also not illegal. I'm afraid that short of voters declaring the charter city status null and void in a new vote, there is little if anything they can do by the books.

Of course, I'm a huge fan of Frontier justice. Run 'em out of town and refuse to pay the pensions. They should count themselves lucky to get away in one piece.

Wonderful! I am mostly concerned about the pension payments these criminals are about to receive. It is unfair that these individuals get paid out so much money for the remainder of their lifetime. So a criminal investigation, leading to a criminal conviction may void these embarassing transactions.

For those who argue that they leave Bell in a better place today than it was 17 yrs ago, I say this, look at our property tax bills, you will see a dramatic increase in the past 4-5 years alone. That explains a lot.

Anyways, to all you Bell Residents, please come out and support our cause today at 6pm, City Hall!

It goes on everywhere in the USA...the state retirement system, CALPERS, has employees making $300,000-400,000....$250,000 is a common salary for city managers, school superintendents, police chiefs, fire chiefs....they have all moved past the private sector......

We have doctors at government run medical schools paid million dollar salaries, as UCLA

Every single State, County, and City position should be capped at $100K no matter what you do. It's a civil job, working for the people, not for themselves making tons of money.

The amount of money that these folks are/were being paid from public funds is an outrage. While I support a salary for a public employee/elected official consistent with the position, in no way can these sums be justified.

The entire management of "Bell" should be sent to jail, and they should throw away the key. If I were to embezzle funds from my employer, or from a charity, I would be sentenced to spend time in the "big house". Why are these incredibly greedy individuals any different?

One day the voters of the US are going to wake up and realize that our politicians (both parties) have no interest in what we, the people want, and are only interested in their own re-election and the growth of their own assets. The "Bell" situation is just one of thousands of instances of public fraud and abuse. And then there's immigration - the sanctuary cities, and the two parties, are bowing to the illegal immigrants lobbyists - instead of listening to what the legal residents/voters/tax payers of the US want.

A pox on all of their houses!

It's time to have all elected officials post their tax returns on the internet.

The outrage expressed by the residents of Bell is understandable. But how many of those residents bothered to get involved with City politics, convey any opinions to the local politicians, to show up at Council meetings or even to vote? They should be grateful to the LA Times for exposing this situation, but how many of them buy the newspaper, or read it online? If they do not pay for it, then how can the media afford to keep the politicians and businesses honest? Likewise, with the new interest in this matter shown by the State Attorney General. Now, suddenly they are interested? How many other Cities are playing this game and where was the government oversight? The easy part is attacking someone when the hard work and expensive investigation has been undertaken by someone else.
The Citizens need to Get Involved, and the State needs to be be Proactive.

"Brown... said his office will also look at salaries in other local governments to determine if similar abuses are happening."

The reason he has not looked into this pension scam before the LA Times exposed it is possibly because he is also in CalPers as is the District Attorney.

Thank you again LA Times.

Now if he can investigate why 20% of the population of Bell needs food handouts that would put icing on the cake.

ooooh, that one we know. Cheap labor.

I agree with Anthony Lord.
Well said.

I truly question the standards held in the Bell election. Of the 339 people that voted, 229 were absentee. that leaves less than 100 people actually voted. 40, I believe dissented, which means 60 people voted for it in person. If Rizzo, the Mayor, and the 4 councilmembers that looted Bell each got 10 people to vote for it ...

Mr. Attorney General, investigate the absentee voter ballots.

If government can't lock up people like this, then we all need to start worrying big time. This kind of thinking is pervasive in America. Do unto others before they do unto you. It is based on America's pursuit of greed. You know Whitman would never pursue prosecution against these crooks. Let hope someone goes to jail.

Ha-Ha, fooled again. Of course these crooks will receive these large pensions. Yes, it will go to court, but, the crooks will win.
They have turned us into sheep. They bark, and we fall down in terror. It is happening all over America. We have to pay these large wages, and pensions or, we won"t get the best people" I think you would have to say,"we have had the worst in office". That is why, we could lose this country. People have to work to eat. Please, what we do now is for, our kids, and Grand-kids.
So remember. when we deal with these crooks we are dealing for our kids and Grand-kids. Dam the crooks who have no feeling for the "little guy". In fact, "damn the torpedoes,full speed ahead". Let's all stand up, and get our country back. We all stand together, or, hang alone.


get'em JB
Damn, I may be forced to vote for you.

@ Marcy,
The initial votes that passed the measure of Bell becoming a charter is in itself very SHADY!!! 86% of the votes were absenty ballots and in Bell the high majority that do vote do so by atttending the designated voting pole locations.

So three of the most overpaid Bell officials have resigned and the city is still able to function without them. Why the heck do we even need these politicians in office in the first place then? Fire all of these money-sucking leeches!

Brown is an opportunistic pr**ck. The horse is out of the barn and down the street on this one.

To bad he ruined the California economy, drove businesses to Arizona, Nevada and Utah, ruined the City of Oakland and brought the Cal. Supreme Court to it knees.

They should all be arrested for embezzlement.

They should also look into the Maywood city council salaries. They are making over $30,ooo for their part-time job. Felipe Aguirre approved a CDBG grant to remodel his "office/home" on Slauson Ave. worth over $100,ooo

I believe that the salaries of all public employees should be capped at no more than 25% of what the President is making. The President is trying to run a country earning 400k, and we have this crook running a tiny city of about 150 employees making this ridiculous amount of 800k. Things just don't add up.

I suggest that L.A.Times investigate other small cities like the city of Bell. Without suggestions that other cities are doing the same thing; it happened in Bell the others nearby have possibly figured out the same method of paying high salaries to themselves and others in the circle of friends.

Demand to know in your city who is
public funded to work/public service
in your city or county...demand the
listing...its your tax money...you need
to know...find out who is getting what $$$$$
the greed has to stop.

How many other small or even big cities are getting away with the same thing? No wonder the state is broke. Between Calpers middle men bonuses and crazy payouts, the taxpayer gets the bill and the scolded for whistle blowing such abuses. It is like all government high salaries; they get the medical and pension we would all like, yet, we only get to pay for it. I WANT WHAT THEY ARE GETTING, WE ARE PAYING FOR IT!

Las time I checked, Jerry Brown has been Attorney General for nearly 4 years.

During that time, he has done little to nothing about political corruption which is rife in California's small cities with white majority City Councils. If you look at the history of convictions of elected officials and city staff members in Southern California, for wrongdoing in connection with public positions, you'll probably find a grand total of 1 white person.

I am white and my friends are white. We are absolutely disgusted by the selective prosecution/harassment/criticism of elected officials and public employees. By and large, the white ones are in the pockets of real estate developers, who have gotten smart and started making campaign contributions to both parties.

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