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Bell City Council considers cutting its $100,000 salaries


The embattled Bell City Council will meet Monday night to consider cutting council member pay, which is now considered significantly higher than that of other cities of the same size.

The move comes three days after the council announced the resignations of three top city administrators, including the city manager who was making nearly $800,000 a year.

Bell council members make nearly $100,000 a year -- a sum that is now the subject of an inquiry by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

A state law enacted in 2005 limits the pay of council members in "general law" cities, a category that includes most cities in Southern California. That law was passed in reaction to the high salaries that leaders in South Gate had bestowed on themselves earlier in the decade.

But the year that law passed, the Bell City Council authorized a special election with only one item on the ballot -- a measure calling for Bell to convert to a "charter" city. The move was billed as giving the city more local control. The ballot language included no mention of the effect the change would have on council members' salaries.

Since passage of the measure, salaries for council members -- part-time employees -- have jumped more than 50%, from $61,992 a year to at least $96,996.

The Times revealed last week that the city's top officials have lucrative contracts that pay them some of the highest municipal wages in the country. City Manager Robert Rizzo is paid $787,637 a year; Police Chief Randy Adams makes $457,000 and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia makes $376,288.

State Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown said he had ordered an investigation into the high salaries, calling the compensation packages "almost beyond belief." He said that the administrators' pay "morally borders on a gift of public funds" and that his office would "exhaust every possibility under California law'' to determine if Bell's leaders acted illegally.

-- Ruben Vives and Jeff Gottlieb
Comments () | Archives (56)

great way to reduce their salaries; run them out of office

It seemed to me that the city of Bell was doing well as far as their fiscal situation was concerned. They have retired debt and the reports indicate that they are well-managed. The salaries are higher than normal, but based on both tenure and performance, with 12% annual increases they must have been doing good jobs. Just because some reported discovers they are making a lot of money does not in fact mean they were not doing good jobs. Just because they find someone else to do the jobs for less money does not guarantee the same quality of service. I would bet that in one year, you may find the city of Bell pretty disappointed that they let good managers and leaders leave their city for retirement without looking at the debt reductions and smooth operations they left behind. Obama makes less, yes, but he is doing a lousy job. Seems unfair to comparre these folks to him or LA's police chief. Look at their performances then compare. Probably getting their money's worth.

I live next to Bell since '64 it was a White/Caucasian neighborhood for the most part people from Oklahoma & Arkansas to some degree lived here especially Bell Gargens. I came to Hunt. Park in '51 via Texas (born) my parents too here in H.P. in the '40s. Everybody started to leave these communities in the 70s and has never been the same. There were always crooks but worst now. I say because the immigrants (legal and nonlegal) do not vote that much... the illegal can't and the city officials know that. The people of Bell are partly to blame because they are not getting involved in city politics till someome tells them your'e being robbed then they start screaming. The people who lived here before knew these things were going to happened and the good status of the these cities were going down financially. They wanted no part of it including American/Mexican born citizens .. and left. Those people who were here are glad they left and know what is the problem the city officials taking advantage of the ignorant.

Brown will exhaust "every possibility?" This is exactly what's wrong with our system. Humor me, let's say you're standing on a street and someone reaches into your pocket and takes your money...it's theft and therefore a crime, right? But, in this political world it's debatable, and of course, we'll need a politician, a lawyer, and judge to decide the obvious. And we know their answer...no crime was committed. To add insult to injury, these self-serving individuals (yes judges are part of the problem too) will take years to decide the issue, and will be well-paid for the same. Nobody loses except the tax-paying public...with all the players laughing in the background. The sheep continue to be slaughtered.

I say make an example of them! Recall!!!

P.S. I was asked by someone by email when I left a news blog comment if the City of Bell ever owned a Bell Card Club Casino. Because this person played in a big poker tournament event there in '89 or '90 and the employees said the card club was owned by the City of Bell when he asked..he thought odd. There was some top poker players there at that event..Bobby Baldwin sat in the same table with him next table was Scotty Nguyen and Stu Ungar somewhere there. He thought if Bell owned the card club maybe that's where a lot of money came to the City Of Bell, maybe. I know Bell owns property next to City of Commerce north of Slauson on Eastern Ave. between Bandini and Sheila Ave. where there's a U.S. Postal processing center in the property of Bell. I know Bell Gardens next door has a card Casino as do City Of Commerce. But it might be worth the time to check it out. The City Of Bell does own property about two mile northeast of Bell from the 710 freeway ... check the Thomas Bros. map book. I do recall seeing some card casino somewhere in that area but it wasn't the Bell Gardens one or the City of Commerce or the Cudahy one on Atlantic..I don't know if it's there anymore ... the one that I saw 20 or so years ago. Where is the big money come from in Bell? Just the taxes? I don't know. They say it's very poor here it has to you can figure lots of illegals here with not much money and they see as in Hunt. Park up to 4 different families in one house with 2 bedrooms and one bathroom that is why it is a poor around here big families - lots of kids, lots of kids and they are building and building many schools around these cities knocking out blocks of homes because the schools are way overcrowded another reason why people left ... you can't learn if the schools are overcrowded and the kids do not speak good English.

The city employees, ALL, such council members, mayor, the three agreed to resign and chief of police dept. RIPPED OFF the Bell city People. They are conspirators to set up a scheme for their own lucrative profits. ALL must go right away and come to the court, and pay back the money dishonestly and shamelessly taken from the People of Bell City.
This is God-given chance to Jerry Brown to be elected as a Governor again if he satisfies for the People of Bell City and Californians by a complete investigation and brings them to the court. What a bunch of scums!


If the salaries are justified based on the excellent services the people in Bell are receiving, they wouldn't be up in arms about it.

the salary increases are not tied into job performance. they are automatic regardless of performance.

If the council and the three that resigned feel their salaries are justified, then justify them. Show why/how they work they do for Bell is ten times better than the work people are doing who bet paid 1/10th of their salary.

If they could have justified it with facts, they would have. But they can't.

Atty General Brown needs to go after these guys non stop. Even if you can't prevail, he needs to make them spend their ill gotten gains on lawyers defending themselves in court until they agree to not only resign, but forfeit their pensions as well.

They get paid more than the president of the U.S.

Bell is only a few square miles in size. I'm sure these council members don't have a lot on their plate when it comes to work. That's why it's a part time gig. But 100K a year? What a scam.


I would defend all your points if you were talking about a CEO running a private company but the fundamental difference, which you don't seem to understand or ignore, is that these officials are in a public office paid for with tax dollars of the citizens of Bell and that is a very special responsibility because those tax dollars are collected with or without the consent of those who pay them and therefore at a minimum those individuals responsible for spending those tax dollars must do so in a reasonable and responsible manner. No reasonable person will argue that the salary of these individuals are in any way reasonable. As far as doing a good job is concerned well that's what they are supposed to do! In exchange for doing a good job in one's job one is not fired that's how things are supposed to work. Ultimate blame of course is not with the city officials but with the city council which I'm sure will be out of a job pretty soon.

BTW, don't assume that because they were getting 12% annual raises that they were doing a good job just look at Wall Street executives with their guaranteed bonuses and salaries. Also you say it is not fair to compare them to LA officials or President Obama well then to whom should we compare these public officials to I ask you CEOs running private corporations? You need better arguments Steve and some logic would help too.

Yeah sure, Steve. There is no basis in reality for this pay. These jokers would be paid less than $100K in the private sector. Given that they "run" a small town, and Obama runs the world's largest superpower, I would expect Obama to be paid a little bit more. My guess is that the good residents of Bell are not getting their money's worth.

Hold your breathe waiting for Jerry Brown to file legal actions against bureaucrats or Democrats, much less latinos, while he runs for governor.

Steve, it's ridiculous to suggest a city the size of Bell should expect to pay these exorbitant salaries to be "well-managed." You say that a year from now the residents there may be disappointed they let good people go, as if they can't find people to do a good job for substantially less, which is ludicrous. The issue isn't whether or not they've done a good job; the issue is whether a city of 40,000 (and it's not Beverly Hills or Aspen or Palm Beach, it's Bell!) needs to pay THAT kind of money to get someone to do the same work and, yes, do it well. Your logic is so wrong-headed it makes it appear as if you're related to one of the people being paid these absurd amounts of money. This kind of gouging of that city's budget is absolutely indefensible.

Love that ballot initiative process! Look what's it's done the state (and cities) of California.

Most residents are living in poverty while the city officials are earning hefty salaries. This money could have been used to improve the schools, parks, and streets. There are many gangs there, maybe more youth programs to deter them from that.

Viva La Raza

Bell is one of the poorest cities in the state.
We now know why.

They openly ripped off the residents of Bell and stepping down to a meager 600k salary is punishment enough? They, like all politicians at any level are scumbag conartists who could care less about the people they are supposed to serve. They still got away with it and the 3 that stepped down will keep getting away with it. Pension. What a joke.

This should be a warning to the Public....those crooks got their outrageous salaries by circumventing the law via a special election with the guise of making Bell a charter instead of a city to get around the rules of pay....little noticed but...we see the rest...be vigilent of these jerks....and via the reporting in the Sunday L.A. Times Business Section...7/25/10...candidate Meg Whitman has misrepresented (willfully or by error) that California is out of the mainstream with Capital Gains Taxes...NOT TRUE and a reduction in that would NOT reduce the State Deficit by much AND would a windfall for the upper echelons of income....check out the story....a Trojan Horse by the GOP....Again?

Hey Steve, cities can hire well qualified educated city managers with outstanding track records all day long at a fraction of these salaries.

This is legalized theft and will continue with huge pensions, reportedly $710,000 per year for Rizzo for life with cost of living raises.

Steve, you're clearly on the government dole—it's the only way you could have such a warped perception. Your quote: "I would bet that in one year, you may find the city of Bell pretty disappointed that they let good managers and leaders leave their city for retirement."
The city of Bell will not be disappointed to see pure and absolute corruption leave their community, and that's guaranteed. No private sector gig would have paid Mr. Rizzo 800,000 thousand a year, otherwise he would have taken them up on it. If he lives to be 85, he will have earned what, 25,000,000 (tax) dollars from CALPERS? That's absolutely criminal. He should be locked up as should the entire city council of Bell for allowing it happen. They're all in on it.

Don't believe the lies

Obama made over $5,000,000.00 last year

...from the book sales...legal graft
no need to bribe
"I just bought 10,000 of your books..."
chicago politics at its finest

"with 12% annual increases they must have been doing good jobs" - 12% was locked into the contract regardless of performance

this is not just a generous salary but WAY above the norm, its a ripoff pure and simple, and you know it

Funny how the private sector is now working for the public sector.... I wonder if these crooks will ride off into the sunset and get their current huge retirement packages? Will we rise against and realize these selfish pay packages were not legal to be placed upon the city's residents AND make any future payments to these theives null and void. Also, should we not be able to force these crooks to pay back a good chunck of their past pay that is deemed to be unjust.

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