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Bell attorney quits law firm; firm ends contract with Bell amid salary scandal [Updated]

Bell's controversial city attorney -- who was dumped last week by the city of Downey for his connection to the scandal-ridden town -- announced Monday that he is leaving his firm to focus on helping Bell through its crisis.

Edward Lee had been a partner at Best, Best & Krieger since 2006 and Bell's contract city attorney since the 1990s. The firm issued a statement Monday saying that Lee would be leaving Best, Best & Krieger. The firm also announced that it would be ending its contract with Bell, but would assist in the transition.

[Updated at 7:07 p.m.: On Monday evening Marco Martinez, a partner with Best Best & Krieger, announced at the Maywood City Council meeting that Lee had resigned from his position as Maywood's city attorney.]

"Given the current situation in Bell, I cannot allow the lives of the great attorneys and support people who work at Best Best & Krieger to be affected by it, not to mention the many great clients of the firm," Lee said in a statement. "I am confident that my reputation will be restored in time, as events unfold."

Last week the Downey City Council voted 3-2 to terminate the city's contract with Lee and Best, Best & Krieger. City leaders said they no longer felt comfortable being associated with the attorney.

Downey officials said they had become disenchanted with Lee's involvement in the Bell salary controversy, which Councilman Mario Guerra called one of the "most egregious breaches of fiduciary responsibilities in the history of our state."

As Bell's city attorney, Lee signed off on contracts that paid top administrators some of the highest salaries for their positions in the nation. City Manager Robert Rizzo was paid nearly $800,000 a year; Police Chief Randy Adams, $457,000; and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, $376,288.

For The Times' complete coverage, visit www.latimes.com/Bell.

-- Kimi Yoshino

Comments () | Archives (19)

This attorney is full of it. He's quitting his law office!!!! Will he still get paid???? Even though he is done will the Law Firm he represented still be paid??? If the answer to anyone of these is YES........then the hustle continues at the expense of the taxpayers. Any level of integrity or trust has been lost as simply put, he, the law firm and of course including the elected officials and their croonies are contaminated and are part of the problem of what is wrong with government. Most thieves go quiet in the night but this group of bandits did it in the day light or right in your face. Did they not think any of their antics would come to light??????

Isn't it strange that both Lee and his 'former firm' wants to help Bell, yet Bell doesn't indicate wanting or needing their help. If these outrageous salaries weren't indicated in each annual budget, how did they go on for so long?

Ed Lee should be disbarred for over billing these poor cities. I guess the State Bar doesn't keep track of crooks like Lee.

If the attorney knew of the salaries and did nothing he should have a legal problem, if not an ethics issue. If he did not know, he is incompentent.

"As Bell's city attorney, Lee signed off on contracts that paid top administrators some of the highest salaries for their positions in the nation. City Manager Robert Rizzo was paid nearly $800,000 a year; Police Chief Randy Adams, $457,000; and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, $376,288."

Hmmm, it seems Mr. Lee forgot Contracts 101 by not conducting a fact find and just "signed off" on contracts? If I did that, I probably would have been terminated as a contracts manager, hello?!!

Resignation from the firm, or "transitional" involvement is not enough! Mr. Lee must be fully investigated by state and federal law enforcement authorities for a host of potential criminal violations, including conspiracy to defraud the taxpayer, violations of fiduciary responsibility, racketeering, etc., etc., and imprisoned as appropriate.

Hmmph! I believe the Times needs to delve into Maywood some more as well.

I believe this law firm may be in for a wild ride.

"...I cannot allow the lives of the great attorneys and support people who work at Best Best & Krieger to be affected by it, not to mention the many great clients of the firm,"

No mention of the people in Bell

Keep your eyes on another law firm, Brown, White & Newhouse. Tom Brown and sidekick Ken White have essentially been running the city for the last two years. Rizzo and his aid Ty Henshaw moved only after Tom Brown approved the move. Brown knows where all the bodies are buried (literally). By the way, Brown was almost disbarred following actions taken while defending the disgraced Albert Robles in South Gate. These guys make Mr. Lee look like Peter Pan.

More... Never ends

Best, Best & Not-So-Best, eh?

Oh please, Mr. Lee, Im sure youre not new to corruption. Chinese people are very good in "teamwork"

From the text, Lee said in a statement. "I am confident that my reputation will be restored in time, as events unfold." Seems as if there are only two choices; Lee read what he was signing (complicity), he did not read what he was signing (incompetence). Hard to imagine what event(s) could unfold to change that.

Give me a break! If Best didn't hold on to Lee, why should Bell?

Edward Lee quit his firm "to focus on helping Bell through its crisis?" Really? What's he going to do? Issue a retroactive legal opinion that indicates that the "merit" increases and lavish - perhaps unprecedented - compensation packages extended to Rizzo, Spaccia and Adams were ill advised? Or, is he going to spell out how Mr. Rizzo, Ms. Spaccia and Chief Adams were worth every penny they made?

Mr. Lee had his chance, indeed he had the duty, to help Bell. In fact, he may have been able to help Bell avert it altogether had he done the right thing and gone public - but he didn't.

If Mr. Lee really wants to help, he can help by calling a press conference and announcing that he will leave Bell like he did Best. Short of that, he can recuse himself from all these matters and recommend that the city of Bell retain other legal counsel.

As for his reputation, Mr. Lee can restore it in an instant. All he has to do is produce documentation that clearly demonstrates that he advised the City Council against the unprecedented increases, lavish salaries and other matters during his tenure.The reality is Mr. Lee was directly and/or indirectly a player in this fiasco! And Best, Best & Krieger knows it and they accepted Mr. Lee's resignation because they don't want their brand tarnished any more than it already has been.

Stop the game playing! Mr. Lee's less than zealous representation is hurting children, families and seniors.

Both Best and Lee ought to be ashamed of themselves and ought to "man up" and do the right thing, but they won't because it's profits before people.

Lastly, I want to congratulate Councilmember Dan Guerra of Downey who was cited Mr. Lee's effort to pacify the attendees at the City Council meeting on July 19. I was present at that meeting and I found Mr. Lee's attempt to "hush" those who were there to "petition" their government downright unAmerican.

And while the "potential litigation" Mr. Lee cited as the reason why the City Council couldn't discuss the compensation/personnel issue in public may have been accurate, I thought Mr. Lee failed miserably when he chose not to make it abundantly clear that the public had a right to voice their opinion on the matter.

Instead, he stood quiet and they took no public comment on the matter, and the very next day they entered negotiations with the outgoing parties, and they did so without the benefit of public comment.


Now that the rock has been turned over, one can only wonder how many other municipalities in California and across the country are being raped, pillaged and plundered.

Protestors from Maywood may not have understood why the Bell Cartel came to Maywood after the People of Maywood protested on foot back and forth between the two cities, but the message to Maywood was Clear. YOU ARE WATCHING YOU AND IF WE GO DOWN SO DO YOU! Thank you Bell Cartel for letting your Maywood Cronies know that they need to make sure they don't make any stupid moves.

It amazes me that people with little or no qualifications are being appointed to prominent positions and no one seems to notice how they got there:
Pedro Carrillo Used to be the Director of Transportation for the Old Timers Foundation, he is now on the board of directors of the Central Basin Municipal Water basin making $400,000.00 to $800,000.00 a year.
Rudy Montalvo used to be a Director at that Old Timers Foundation and is now also appointed to the Central Basin Municipal Water District, now making over $200,000.00 a year.
Art Chacon used to help organize campaign events and rally locals for the Old Timers Foundation, now he is now also a member of the Central Basin Municipal Water Basin making $200,000.00 a year.
John Nogales Is currently running for LA County Assessor after getting George Culero a $4,500,000.00 Contract. Who do you think is funding his campaign. Old Timers Foundation?
How did they do this? You have to show your loyalty to the Old Timers Foundation and its founder and Don, George Cole or as he is now known George "Culero". After you demonstrate your loyalty you will get your campaign paid for and appointments to Water Districts and once you are in you get George Culero big $$ contracts. Like the $1,500,000.00 Contract Chacon secured for Cole for toilette replacements in Maywood, the money is gone, but no one in Maywood has ever received a new toilette.

It is hard to imagine one of California's top law firms being involved with the Bell controversy. Hopefully Edward Lee's involvement will not permanently tarnish their reputation, it will probably be hard for them to recover from a scandal of this magnitude.

Resigned or canned by the firm? How does a small city like Bell rack up about $500,000 in legal fees in one year?

Residents of Bell should consider pushing the City to institute a malpractice lawsuit against Ed Lee and Best Best & Krieger if they knew of the scandal or advised Rizzo that the financial transactions complied with law.


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