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Rizzo, other Bell officials got nearly $900,000 in loans from city

Bell City Council meetingThe city of Bell gave nearly $900,000 in loans to former City Administrator Robert Rizzo, city employees and at least two council members in the last several years, according to records reviewed by The Times.

The documents show that the city’s former assistant city manager received two loans of at least $100,000 each and that Councilmen Oscar Hernandez and Luis Artiga received $20,000 loans.

Neither Hernandez nor Artiga reported the loans on their financial disclosure forms for 2009, which is required under state law.

Rizzo, whose huge salary sparked a scandal that forced him and other city officials to step down, received two loans for $80,000 each, city officials said.

“The council members should have declared any loans from the city,” said David Demerjian, head of the Public Integrity Unit of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which is investigating Bell. “I cannot think of a reason to provide loans to a council member.”

In an interview, Artiga said Rizzo told him about the loan program when he was having financial difficulties last year. Artiga said Rizzo described the loan as a “pay advance” and said that the city would deduct money from his check to repay it.

Artiga said Rizzo told him some employees used the loans to buy homes.

Hernandez did not return calls seeking comment. Bell’s new Interim City Manager Pedro Carillo said it appears that at least 50 people received loans over the last eight years.

“Currently our city attorney has questioned their legality,” Carrillo said. “What we’re investigating is who authorized it, why and how.” 

Officials have not yet found any documents showing that the City Council approved the program, which appears to have been created by Rizzo. The loan terms vary in length.

Some were paid over years, others were open-ended, Carrillo said. The collateral appears to be unused vacation time, sick leave and pensions. City officials said no credit checks were conducted. The interest rate was tied to a fund managed by the state treasurer.

At least some of the loans appear to have been repaid.

“We’re still investigating to determine how much was loaned, how much was repaid and how much is outstanding,” said acting City Atty. Jamie Casso.

The loans raise new questions about how officials were compensated in Bell. The Times revealed last month that top city administrators were among the highest-paid in the nation, sparking outrage and investigations by L.A. County prosecutors and the California attorney general.

Rizzo’s contract for this year called for him to receive more than $1.5 million in salary and benefits. The loans appear to come on top of that compensation.

-- Jeff Gottlieb, Kimi Yoshino, Ruben Vives and Richard Winton

Photo: Pedro Carrillo, Bell's interim city manager, is attempting to sort out the various loans. Christina House, For The Times / August 15, 2010

Comments () | Archives (26)

Is the bottom of this mess ever going to be reached? Mr. Hamid Karzai looks more and more American everyday with these headlines everyday.

Absolutely disgusting. But I'm glad to see that this story broke out. It was journalist from LA Times that first found out about the salaries, which is what online news sources lack. Sad part is that public sector workers' in general get pensions, higher pay, and job security that far exceed private sector counterparts. You might not care much, but you would if you knew how much of YOUR money is funding this. Now you know why you got a sales tax increase.

put this dude in jail w/ no calpers pension!

We need to jail these crooks very soon

My God everyday it something new and Oscar Hernandez and Luis Artiga act like they never did anything wrong they all need to go to Prison sooner then later!!
Artiga is Jim Baker all over again He lies where he lives at payed local gang members to say he live in that small 1 bedroom apt what a joke when he lives in a 4 bedroom chino home!!

what about the meth lab found at the mayors rental house where his son lives? investigate that....these people are evil and greedy....i hope they really get what they deserve...people lost their jobs and their homes all the while these clowns were lining their pockets

These people should be behind bars. The abuse of power and trust the bell residents place on these crooks is incredible. We need to make an example out of these criminals so that it never happens again.

all the city coucil sould go to jail

Another reason to porsecute these crooks. Rizzo shkould spend some time in jail and his pension cancelled.

Just out of curiosity, have they started calling this guy Ratso yet?

"Neither Hernandez nor Artiga reported the loans on their financial disclosure forms for 2009, which is required under state law."

Where are the images of these guys in handcuffs? Lock 'em up now. Time to start building new prisons for all of the crooks that will be unearthed as the AG works his way through halls of Southern California's civic centers.

All these clowns belong in prison. Why does it take the Los Angeles Times investigators/reporters to find these crooks for everything? Why even have police investigators, what they had no clue or are they in cahoots?
David Demerjian, head of the Public Integrity Unit of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office better get off his seat and make sure these crooks all pay back in blood!

print this, and call / email your city council. get ready for more corruption

Hi City Council,

Please answer the following:

How much do you, as a City Council member get paid per

Do you, as a member of the City Council, receive retirement benefits
(financial or medical or other)? If yes, how much of each? Please
be specific.

Do you, as a member of the City Council, receive medical benefits?
If yes, how much please be specific and who pays for these benefits?

The City commissioners are appointed by you, the City Council.

Does the City Commissioners receive compensation. If so how much and what kind.

the city of claremont california does not give retirement benefits of any
kind to the city council, and they don't give medical benefits as of 2010.

Can we bring back hanging people for this? Or firing squad?


Why put these rats through a trial, lets just STONE THEM

WOW!~ This Bell situation is never ending!

"Artiga said Rizzo described the loan as a “pay advance” and said that the city would deduct money from his check to repay it...."
Ha Ha Ha - I've heard that one before. By the most amazing co-incidence, there will be a "bonus" at the end of the year for each recipient exactly matching their "pay advance". The net result - the City of Bell is out $900,000.

PART # 1
Do you people think that this is over? Do you people think that there are no more pigs, inside and outside Bell City Hall, beside the ones that are working now in the Administrative Management for an annual salary of $ 1,560,854 ? What about THE BELL POLICE DEPARTMENT ? Why nobody denounce their high salaries ? Very simple. Because they are running the show in complicity with BASTA organizers (with former 2009 City Council candidates "LOSERS" ALI SALEH and NESTOR VALENCIA )This conspirators have a hidden agenda and very special interest. This group have and still waiving a war against the City Council Members and the City Administrative Office. but they don't mention the salaries of BPD. WHY ? They just don't want the people to see the other way. Don't you think ? >>> Continue to part # 2 >>>

BASTA you said ???? Who really are those BASTA organizer ?Where they come from ? What is their agenda ?Why are they spending so much money in publicity around the City of Bell ?Thousands of Flyers,T-Shirts,Banners , Street Signs,and other accesories.Where all that money is coming from?Why they are so desperate to Recall those Council Member?Why they denounce the high salaries of the City's workers and administrators "but" don't denounce and not even mention the high salaries of The Bell Police Department ? STOP BASTA now before it's too late, Don't Trust them, STOP the Conspirators !!!!!

Bravo to the LA Times for breaking and staying on this story

There's a gold mine of local government corruption in contracted city attorneys, check out Best, Best & Krieger, especially their contracts with small cities like Rialto. Their attorneys green lighted all this activity and they did it all over the state.

I do hope the book is thrown at Rizzo. What a disgrace.

Sadly, the Harmid Karzai connection is accurate...

I remember Pedro Carillo defending these salaries when the news hit on television and now he is City Manager conducting investigation for wrong doing. I don't get it. I do trust James Casso.

These so called council leaders should be put in prison. Yet again we are in America where anyone can get away with any crime. You go to college to learn to be thiefs, and learn to take bribes, steal from the poor, and hard working Citizens. At least in other countries people like this are called Thiefs, scum, and trash. Here we call them Community Leaders of the City Of Bell. (CLOWNCIL) I pray that our kids, the future leaders of America, dont look up to these Theifs as role models. And our legal system makes examples of them so our kids will know that its not true that the American justice system does protect it's Citizens.

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