Bell gave employees more than $1.5 million in loans
Documents released by Bell show the city's loan program for employees totaled more than $1.5 million -- greater than originally reported in a Times article on Wednesday.
Based on documents it had obtained, The Times tallied payments to more than a dozen employees for nearly $900,000, all apparently part of "administrative agreements" or loans issued by the city. But in response to a public records request, Bell provided more than 100 pages of additional documents that showed loans totaling $1.49 million. Some were marked paid; others had handwritten notes suggesting they are still outstanding. The city also acknowledged that former City Manager Robert Rizzo also received two loans for $80,000 each, which pushes the total to more than $1.6 million.
In response to The Times' article, City Manager Pedro Carrillo, whose one-year contract was approved this week, posted a statement on the city's website saying that the program had been halted and that outstanding loans will be immediately requested for repayment.
"We are in the midst of determining who benefited from the program, how much money was loaned from the program and how much money remains to be paid back to the city of Bell," he said.
Current council members Luis Artiga and Oscar Hernandez each received $20,000 loans, while former council member George Bass took out a $20,000 loan. Neither Hernandez nor Artiga reported the loans on state financial disclosure forms, which is required under state law.
Bell officials were trying to determine which loans remain outstanding. Artiga said he had repaid his loan in 10 months.
Carrillo and City Attorney Jaime Casso said they have not found evidence that the City Council approved the loan program, which appears to have been created by Rizzo.
For the Times' complete coverage of Bell, go to www.latimes.com/bell.
-- Jeff Gottlieb
Photo: Robert Rizzo, after an arrest for alleged drunk driving. Credit: Huntington Beach Police Department