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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)

great report, I hope this will stop and prevent from happening on other towns in the future.

If the facts really are that 400 people out of 40,000 voted in the special election, I suspect a very large number of city residents are illegal aliens.

This would NOT slow down voters in WA State where illegals are encouraged to register and vote. ID is grated to anyone waddling up to the counter.

However, clearly the mayor and city counsel will be deeply investigated (wink wink) and severely punished (wink wink) once the cameras are off.

You betcha, sure.

Why hasn't the Governor or State Attorney, Jerry Brown gotten involved in this issue? Does this make any sense, that a city employee would make this much more than a city manager from larger cities.

What the residents need to do is recall all council members, then take the city thru bankrupcty like what Orange County did. That would nullify all of the pensions and benefits of all the individuals who were employed in the city of Bell. Then start over with an audit happening every six months from an outside source to make sure that this type of corruption does not happen again. Not even the drug cartels in Mexico are this corrupt............

Not if they take the city into Bankruptcy it is just like the auto companies they can break the pensions and benefits.........

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

Posted by: Rick Theneighbor | July 23, 2010 at 09:23 AM

For a police department who has had 4-5 Chief’s in the last 5 years to say that they are not to blame for the impound and checkpoints of bell unlicensed or undocumented drivers is unbelievable. Especially since prior to Adams the Police chiefs were promoted from within.
Bell PD learning from the mistakes Maywood routinely performed rolling checkpoints. A rolling checkpoint is where 10-15 officers are put out on the streets and begin pulling over and checking every car possible. These checkpoint usually occurred Friday and Saturday Nights on Florence Ave. and Atlantic Blvd.

But the rolling checkpoints were only the tip of the ICE-berg. Over the past 18 months Bell PD has preyed on the undocumented and unlicensed people of Bell by donning uniforms similar to what Immigration agents wear and harassing unsuspecting motorist. This ploy would leave these people begging and pleading and fearfully turning over their vehicles for impound in exchange for not being deported. Bell PD would setup shop pickup 15-20 vehicles and move on. The entire time dressed like Immigration agents. Many people wondered why Bell tow was working with the Immigration department, but it turns out they entire thing was staged to impound cars. Once you took a look at the officers you recognized them as Bell PD dressed as Immigration officers.

When I saw Louis Carrillo the Civil Law Attorney, I knew Bell was going to be destroyed the same way Maywood was destroyed. This is the same attorney who took the city of Maywood for millions in unjustified claims.

What's the big deal? Surely these "public servants" are every bit as deserving of their ridiculous salaries as are CEOs and upper level management of private sector corporations?

The problem in America is that the "public" sector in Bell City were obviously running the city "like a business". After all, in America, corporate CEOs are now paid over 500 times the salary of the average worker.

The peasants are revolting against a tiny fraction of the oligarchy. Why?

Aren't the actions of the Bell citizens similar to the goals of the Tea Party? The people of California ALL need to protest to their politicians and demand they resign. The state is broke because of your politicians.

my father always said your help is only as good as your leaders, take a look at washington then go have a good vomit.

How much is the Mayor making...I haven't seen this anywhere. Also, will this open up a big can of worms for other charter towns that have the right to pay their officials whatever they want...?

These crooks(?)unlawfully raised property taxes to pay for their outrageous salaries if they did this behind closed doors it is illegal.

They obviously to not believe in obeying the laws of the USA.

Many elected officials have tried many devious ways to overturn prop. 13 which protects homeowners from being taxed out of their homes. Resigning is not enough,they should go directly to jail.

It would be interesting to check out Mr. Hernandez purchase of the house on Orchard and the sale of that house too. His true colors are showing... I bet something fishy would pop up there too.

Is hard to trust city officials, they lie everyday to the people. this city employees need to pay that money back and put to jail.

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