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Bell council agrees to roll back its salary 90% [Updated]

July 26, 2010 |  8:21 pm

City Council members in Bell unanimously agreed Monday to give up their controversial $96,000-a-year salaries and instead draw only $673 a month – a 90% decrease.

Council members in the small, working-class city southeast of downtown Los Angeles have been under mounting pressure since the salaries for the part-time jobs were revealed in The Times.

Mayor Oscar Hernandez on Monday went a step further than his colleagues and said he will finish his term without pay and will not seek another stint as the city’s mayor. [Updated, 10:25 p.m.: Vice Mayor Teresa Jacobo said at Monday night's meeting that she, too, will finish her term without pay. Councilman George Mirabal said he will not seek reelection.]

Hernandez also apologized to residents for the high salaries the city paid to administrators, a reversal from the defiant tone he struck last week.

“Since my first day as mayor, my priority has been to make Bell a city its residents can be proud to call home,” he said. “…I apologize that the council’s past decisions with regard to the indefensible administrative salaries have failed to meet that test.”

The Times revealed earlier this month that the city's top officials received some of the highest municipal wages in the nation. City Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo makes $787,637 a year, almost twice the salary of President Obama; Police Chief Randy Adams makes $457,000, 50% more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck; and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia makes $376,288, more than the top administrator for Los Angeles County.

In agreeing to sweep back their salaries, council members put themselves on par with Councilman Lorenzo Velez, who has been paid $673 a month. Velez said he was unaware that his colleagues were making so much.

Lorenzo has been the only council member spared the wrath of angry residents. His salary is not affect by Monday's vote.

Council members drove up their salaries by earning stipends by serving on various boards or commissions, all of which generally met – though often very briefly – during council meetings.

In their agreement Monday, council members said the $673-a-month salary will constitute their total pay.

-- Ruben Vives at Bell Community Center

Photo: Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies stand near the Bell City Council during a meeting filled with angry residents upset with the high salaries paid to members. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Investigating Bell:  A Times special report:

Is a city manager worth $800,000?

In depth: High salaries in Bell

Interactive: How the salaries got so high

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