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Defiant Bell mayor defends city manager's high salary, hours after official resigns


A defiant Bell City Council defended the hefty compensation awarded to City Manager Robert Rizzo and two other officials just hours after the three agreed to resign amid a public outcry.

In the city's first formal statement on the salary issue, Bell released a letter from Mayor Oscar Hernandez in which he praised Rizzo's service to the city and said his nearly $800,000 annual salary was justified.

"Unlike the skewed view of the facts, the Los Angeles Times presented to advance the paper's own agenda, a look at the big picture of city compensation shows that salaries of the City Manager and other top city staff have been in line with similar positions over the period of their tenure," Hernandez said in the letter.

Hernandez did address the outrage generated after The Times revealed the salaries last week, adding: "We recognize that today's economic climate and the financial hardships so many families are suffering put our past compensation decisions in a new light.  To the residents of Bell, we apologize."

As part of the resignations, Rizzo, Police Chief Randy Adams and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia will not receive severance packages. Rizzo will step down at the end of August and Spaccia will leave at the end of September. Adams also will leave at the end of August after completing an evaluation of the Police Department.

Rizzo earns nearly $800,000 a year, believed to make him the highest-paid city manager in California and possibly the nation. Adams makes $457,000 — 50% more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck — and Spaccia makes $376,288, more than the top administrator for Los Angeles County.

The decision was announced at midnight to a crowd of angry Bell residents that had been waiting anxiously since 4:30 p.m. when the City Council began its meeting. None of the administrators attended the session. The crowd erupted in applause after the announcement but immediately yelled out questions about what would happen to the council members. Four of the five are paid close to $100,000 annually. When residents' questions were not answered, they shouted, "Recall!"

"Definitely letting go of these three top officials is the first step we need to fix the city," said Cristina Garcia, a member of BASTA, or the Bell Assn. to Stop the Abuse.

Throughout the evening, several residents complained that the council was taking too long, while others clapped in unison to urge the members to come out.

"This is outrageous," said Marcelino Ceja, who has lived in the city for 17 years. "They have to hurry up. I've got kids to feed."

The emergency meeting followed several days of negotiations between the officials and attorneys for the city to reach deals.The crowd began shouting when Councilman Lorenzo Velez's request to open the meeting to the public was overruled by the city attorney, who said the city would be at legal risk if it discussed personnel matters in public.

-- Ruben Vives at Bell City Hall

Photo: Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez listens as the resignations of the police chief, city manager and assistant city manager are announced after the City Council met behind closed doors for nearly six hours. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times


Comments () | Archives (238)

Not only do those receiving the outrageously high salaries need to go, but those that facilitated them getting them need to go as well.

Next to leave? Why, Oscar Hernandez. Can you say RECALL, baby?

Wow he really is taking his lawyer's advice isn't he? Put on the blinder, claim innocence with a bullhorn and hope to God they don't pull out the RICO indictments. *gets popcorn* This is getting fun to watch. Maybe Bell could make a reality show out of it, like the Office, with kickbacks.

GET these HOGS away from the trough...Gee whats wrong in America? Greed? Arrogance? Politicians?

Rizzo looks MAFIA all the way.

Ring one for Bell. Corrupt, third rate, disgusting, political slime and hacks - stealing from the public troth. Bell ain't alone - that's the case in Washington and Sacramento and Los Angeles and every other hick town. Little talentless people robbing America. No unions in government jobs. Cut all the pensions. And vote all incumbents out in November. And now Brown is going to reform govt pensions. He's one of a crew riding high on probably ten government pensions. We, the tax payers, the workers, who are not in government, have been totally screwed by the slimy political hacks in Sacramento and Washington. The highest paid people in the country are third rate bureaucrats, hanger-ons to political correctness, pushing all that left wing junk while we PAY FOR IT. Look at that crook in Bell. Its time for California to declare bankruptsy, get rid of all unions in civil service work. AND REMEMBER - these high priced third rate people are CIVIL SERVANTS. When I was a kid only losers went into government. Was I wrong! Now its payback time in November. Get all of them out. We can't dump Pelosi but we can see she's on the back bench!

This mayor needs to get out with Rizzo, he knew about the high salaries these crooks were getting. The city was getting Butt-raped by Rizzo and company for years... It's time for payback!!

Will Rizzo still get his $660K annual pension?

At first when the DEA hit one of his rental properties where he son is still living, I didn't think Oscar Hernandez was that dirty or such a straight ghetto criminal. But now with his stupid statements about the over paid public servants, it is clearly showing that he is the ring leader of controlling all three - and probably everyone else in the city. Now it clearly shows who has an interest on having these people get paid stupid sums of money - they are all really working for one man. I think that a recall is not needed - a federal indictment on all four, plus the other three council members for going along with this hoarding of money and abuse of power.

When is Hernandez going to resign? Disgraceful.

Has the Times investigation into the city of Bell looked at whether there are any connections between the city council members and administrators and the casinos in the Bell Gardens? Great reporting on this issue!

Now the entire city council and the administrators need to be under review from the state atty general, LA county, and the feds. Cases should be filed against every one of them. Even if they can't convicted, I want them bankrupted spending their money defending the charges.

All of those guys need to be in prison.

Let's see if Jerry Brown actually follows through.

The unfornate truth is that all three of these public servants will be making between 70% to 90% of there current annual salary when they retire. Bell is on the hook for these pension payment for the rest of these employees lives. It's the same for mant cities across California and this country. shame on elected officials for giving in to these windfall payouts. It's the public that suffers

The whole problem of high public sector salaries and high pensions are the result of Voters electing the same type of public union supported candidate’s term after term. Voters may be angered now but in the end they will still elect the same type of officials and nothing will change.
I say Stop the Whining. The majority of voters approved of the public sector golden parachutes via the election of public union candidates. There is nothing you can do now to these pensions short of letting the state go bankrupt which the Feds will never let happen.
Again, stop whining – you got what you voted for. Private sector employees should continue to work until they are near the grave and let comfortable long retirement be the right of public sector employees. Election results prove this is what the majority wants, you can’t beat them but you may be able to join them, there are many public sector jobs available, apply for one.

too bad they didn't demote them with huge salary cuts before accepting their resignations, to reduce their giant pensions. now we'll all be paying for the next 20-30 years so these thieves can be millionaires.

right or wrong...i'm glad to see the citizens of Bell demanding answers and getting what they ask for. There is too much apathy from citizens, this is refreshing.

Bell is a city of 40,000. In the special election that made these pay hikes possible, 400 people voted. Of the 400 who voted, approximately 50 voted no to the ballot measure. No doubt the Bell city "leaders" are nothing more than self-serving crooks. But what about all the Bell residents who either didn't bother to vote, voted yes without doing their homework the way a responsible voter should, or voted yes knowing exactly what this ballot measure would do? The only blameless individuals in this fiasco of civic irresponsibility are the 50 or so people who voted no in Bell's special election. For everyone else, I have no sympathy or respect. Those individuals brought this on themselves, and no amount of yelling and screaming at a city council meeting is going to change that fact.

Time to start a recall petition, get signatures, hold a special election and get these elected scum out of office before they do more damage!!!!

Of course he's still defiant. That's because he's a crook also.

Rizzo looks like that Star Wars Character - Jabba the Hut.

Looks as if Bell's city government had been taking management lessons from former Southgate city officials.

Well, these same people that are asking for a recall or for their resignations are the same people that voted for them.....

Since I heard this story, the first thing that comes to my mind is....WHY DID THIS TAKE SO LONG TO COME TO LIGHT?

You can't tell me that nooone knew how much these "fatcats" were making and that these salaries were outrageous and needed to be addressed. Who was turning a blind eye and letting the status quo stand?

Last night on the news I saw a "speaker" for the protesters saying that "..they knew..." that these city officials were getting high salaries...but not how high. COME ON Bell taxpayers/taxpayers in general...KNOW what YOU are paying these people!

This Mayor is out of touch....now how much is HE making again and what's his qualification for this job?

There needs to be a federal investigation into this matter as this city gets federal money...and an audit should be done to see where it went and to WHOM?

Bottom line...Bell residents elected them...supported them! Next time you elect/hire someone...check their level of education, their background and keep involved in how your city is run before something like this happens. Don't elect someone because they charm you or you "think" they know what they are talking about....investigate their qualifications.

As awful as this is....maybe this will serve as a "wake up" call to taxpayers to check their governments, be that local, state or national and keep them accountable.

We want criminal charges brought on these people. Its not enough to simply fire them. How in the world can you justify $800k a year for a public servant? We want criminal charges filed...

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