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Prosecutors probe Bell for possible election fraud, conflicts of interest, improper salaries

L.A. County prosecutors have launched a multipronged investigation into the city of Bell, examining allegations of voter fraud as well as conflicts of interest involving city business.

In an interview with The Times, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley described the investigation as “rapidly expanding and full-fledged,” saying investigators have been gathering evidence since March.

Cooley’s comments indicate a larger probe than prosecutors had acknowledged up to now.

Until now, the district attorney has said it was looking at what it called high salaries paid to City Council members, who earned nearly $100,000 until they cut their own salaries on Monday. But Cooley said that part of the probe is specifically looking at whether council members received pay for meetings they didn’t attend.

Cooley declined to provide details about the voting fraud probe, other than to say it involves more than one election. Sources with knowledge of the investigation said prosecutors are looking into the use of absentee ballots during a 2009 City Council election.

Cooley’s comments come as a lawsuit filed by a former Bell police officer Monday alleged that several Bell police officers distributed absentee ballots and told residents whom to vote for in advance of that 2009 election.

The allegations are contained in a lawsuit filed by James Corcoran, who says he was forced out of his job for  informing authorities about the officers' actions as well as for a variety of other actions that he says top city leaders did not like.

According to the lawsuit, Corcoran in 2009 reported to the California Secretary of State’s chief investigator and the FBI “that off-duty police officers were taking absentee ballots and providing them to voters to fill out.”

Corcoran claimed that officers instructed individuals how to vote and that some ballots were filled out for deceased people. 

Bell has been under scrutiny since The Times revealed two weeks ago that its city manager earned more than $800,000 a year, making him perhaps the highest paid in the nation. Robert Rizzo agreed to step down last week.

-- Richard Winton, Andrew Blankstein, Jeff Gottlieb and Paloma Esquivel

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

 
Comments () | Archives (24)

There ya go, Cooley. Finally, these are the types of cases you should be going after. Are you finally figuring it out?

SO WHAT... DUMB VOTERS NEED 2 PAY ATTENTION 2 WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THEIR CITY...LAZY PEOPLE CAUSE THIR OWN PROBLEMS.

IS it me, or does Bell’s vice mayor (Teresa Jacobo) look eerily similar to Selena’s murderer, Yolanda Saldivar?

what about improper self dealing, breach of a fiduciary duty to its citizens?

Just know that the residents of bell want to thank the LA TIMES, LA County DA's office and GA Office for helping us clean this mess in our city.

THANK YOU!!!

Unbelievable. Now the question is what the heck was the Sec of State doing?

You mean to tell me they had information like this yet did nothing? It took they LA Times to bring these crooks down?

Time to investigagte this and find every co-conspirator from the top down and toss them all in jail. We need people in government we can trust.

To the LA Times, I have to hand to you as an organization. Fantastic work. I hope this is the start of something I can look forward that has been missing from large newspapers across this country for decades.

Real investigative reporting.

They will reset these salaries to $200,000-240,000 which is about average for a city manager or police chief + free pension and free health and free car and gas

R.-I.-C.-O. ..........suave!

When citizens don't pay attention to government and don't vote, they are ensuring that graft and corruption will take place. I have a few friends who don't vote, and they say that their vote won't make a difference. It makes a difference all right, when a few hundred individuals voted to make the City of Bell a charter city and look what happened. I'm glad that the citizens of Bell have become angry and proactive in their community. Better late than never. They should sweep all of those thieves out of office and if they don't resign, recall them. It looks like a few of those thieving politicians will be going to jail.

I want to take my hat off to the Los Angeles Times for the outstanding investigative reporting that was done on the City of Bell. As we all know, newspapers across the country are in serious trouble, because of low readership. What will happen to investigative reporting with the demise of the great newspapers in our country? Something tells me that we are going to be in very serious trouble keeping these politicians honest.

The Bell city story was broken by Tim Daniels of the Left Coast Rebel blog and was posted and linked at http://www.robbingamerica.com This happened on July 23rd way before the LA Times and Fox News started reporting it. The media is following the Bloggers.

This is all too much for me to take without vomiting:

1) The City Council lays off people from their jobs, then pockets that money into their own salaries.

2) The 2009 election results were illegal, involving fraud and "dead voters" (identity theft).

3) The City Manager is paid more money than President Obama.

4) The Mayor defends the salaries - then does a 180-degree reversal (but refuses to step down).


Now the ex-cop-whistleblower-hero says that Robert Rizzo said that "he admired Adolf Hitler".

And this is just the beginning: wait until the State Controller's Audit comes out. I'm afraid the citizens of Bell will take to the streets with pitchforks.

Mayor Hernandez and Company might want to think about relocating....NOW.

I hope the salary ring bandits will be forced to pay back all millions taken as well as hefty punitive damages so they will eventually become poor again, as poor as the average Bell citizen they were governing
And put this Rizzo hog in jail

United States of America can now compete with the most corrupt nations of the world. Shame on all of us for allowing this injustice to occur. Let's fix it, and fix it we will!

Revolution NOW (per Declaration of Independance)!...before its too late. Lawyers OUT of ALL politics (per Article I, Section 9 of the Federal CONstitution). Any questions?

Are you kidding Me? Do not let anybody currently in the administration or anyone they know access to the files!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There are hidden communications and files here that only the FBI can access, get the FBI into the fold quickly!

Investigate Maywood too.

Cooley's got to find all the big grandstanding crusades he can to nab attention for himself in his run for Attorney General, and this fell into his lap long ago.

OF COURSE he has been planning all along to fan the fires for all they're worth, and in this case, it's actually legit. Prosecuting Richard Alarcon for maybe not living in the house in his district instead of a block away is small potatoes and just a technicality by comparison. This is highway robbery of taxpayers in a small, blue-collar town.

But Bell had better watch out: Jerry Brown's now getting aggressive with them too, he's been telling talk radio. After all, he's running for Governor again. And this has become national news. What a bonanza for ambitious politicians and a just cause at the same time.

UNLIKE Cooley's maniacal and HUGELY EXPENSIVE obsession with nabbing headlines by nabbing Roman Polanski and dragging him back to L A for a show trial haven't worked out, based on dubious legal issues from the beginning. HOW MUCH did chasing him for years, waiting until he was at a high-profile film festival to pounce, and preparing all the paper work cost us so far?

Meanwhile there are MANY DNA KITS UNTESTED that belong to real criminals on the streets now - both in HIS DA's office AND in the office of County Sheriff Leroy Baca, who's crying poverty and says he can't test them. PRIORITIES, we're BROKE, remember? And THESE are the REPUBCLICANS who blame Democrats for waste and "immorality." What hypocrites and phonies!!!

I salivate at the idea that these crooks could go to jail. An example needs to be made post haste. I also wonder where else this is going on. People that have the inside in cities like Pico Rivera, Whittier, Montebello etc. should be offered serious rewards for exposing potential corruption. Full audits of voting irregularities, kickbacks, you name it, should be done pronto. Enough already!!!

Jail time coming, maybe they will be elected to run their prison ward..

These are Some of the Most Outrageous Banditos I Have ever Heard Of. It is Clear that the People of Bell should all Refuse to Pay Their Taxes, Until The Money That Was Stolen IS ALL RETURNED, And These Theives ARE INCARCERATED, PERIOD. That is The Only Way The City Officials Will Listen. They Do It Because YOU LET THEM!

Actually, you know what is funny? I called Jerry Brown's office about the conflict of interest of MTA and overseeing carpool funding.

You see if carpool lanes are successfull...then the MTA loses money.

That is why they want to create Toll lanes from the carpool lanes. Remember the old 91 freeway carpool lane off of the 55 freeway? It is a toll lane now.

Does anyone else see the conflict of interest on the MTA making decisions that affect their own pocketbooks? They are cheating us on adequate carpool information in this internet age....so they can maximize their salaries and help fund their pensions.

Yep, contacted Jerry Browns office. You know what they said? We like to let the local politicians police themselves.

PLEASE HELP US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Like Bell, Maywood Council members have managed to stay in office with absentee votes not only from dead people, but also under aged voters. It's no surprise that Bell is running Maywood now and using the same tactics to stay in office.

Someone needs to look into Maywood too!!! Especially since Bell’s Assistant City Manager, Angela Spaccia is running Maywood and has been since March. Maywood hasn't been having council meetings because of all the fuss in Bell; screwing over the residents in Maywood again.

Bell's interim city manager owns the "temp" company that is staffing the city of Maywood. Isn't that a conflict? Or is it okay for him to maintain his businesses contract with Maywood, while serving as the interim City Manager of Bell? I don't trust him to make ethical decisions and I don't think the residents in the City of Bell do either.

The Maywood council is aware of the conflict and Maywood Council members had their associated group at the Bell council meeting supporting the Bell council and administration. Makes one wonder what Maywood council members owe the ones in Bell...

Again, please help...

Steve Cooley, needs to investigate the city of LA because our mayor and the city council is corrupt. These people are friends, so that will not happen.

Kudos to LAT for exposing the mega fraud in Bell

How about here in LA? We have loads of illegals and corrupt Mexican type politics right here under VillaGrossa, can we inspect salaries here?

We need to end Mexico's invasion , end sanctuari cyties and apply SB1070 here not AZ where there's only a fraction of the problems


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About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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