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Jerry Brown wants Bell officials to resign, give up pensions; says they defrauded public

California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, as part of a sweeping civil lawsuit filed Wednesday against Bell city leaders, is asking a court to order city officials to vacate their positions and nullify contracts that inflated pay for other top administrators.

“What is clear is that the City Council and city administrator and other officials abused their public trust. They engaged in a collaboration that [amounted] to a civil conspiracy to defraud the public,” Brown said at a news conference Wednesday morning in announcing the lawsuit.

The attorney general is also launching a probe into salaries and other issues in the neighboring city of Vernon and also looking at excessive salaries statewide.

“This is a matter that cries out for justice," Brown said.

Brown's requests are laid out in a lawsuit filed Wednesday morning in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The lawsuit, which alleges fraud and misuse of public funds, names eight top Bell officials, including former City Manager Robert Rizzo, former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, former Police Chief Randy Adams and several current and former city council members.

The lawsuit also asks for an order requiring defendants to make restitution to the city for excessive compensation they approved or accepted as well as for excessive contributions made to their California Public Employees' Retirement System pension fund and supplemental retirement fund.

The lawsuit also seeks a judgment that would disqualify the high salaries from being used to determine pension payments.

In retirement, Rizzo would become the state's highest-paid pensioner, earning at least $600,000 annually.  Adams would be the third-highest, receiving an estimated $411,000. CalPERS officials have said they are looking into the pensions and that the highly paid administrators would not be able to draw their pensions until it is determined whether city officials broke any laws.

Brown is also seeking to bar the council members, as well as the former top administrators, from ever holding public office.

In response, Rizzo's attorney, Jim Spertus, noted that Brown is running for governor. "At this particular point in the election cycle, it doesn't surprise me that charges have been filed," Spertus said.

"I have not reviewed the charges but I will do so."

Brown launched the investigation after The Times reported that Rizzo was earning nearly $800,000 and council members were being paid nearly $100,000 a year for council and agency meetings, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef013485ba0fc7970c-800wisome of which met for only one minute.

Both the attorney general and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office have opened wide-ranging investigations into allegations of voter fraud, conflict of interest and excessive salaries in the Southeast L.A. County city. Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department also said it had launched an investigation into civil-rights violations focusing in part on allegations that the city improperly used towing fees and other municipal fines to generate revenues.

Bell has about 40,000 residents. It is one of the poorest cities in the county, with a population that is about 90% Latino and 53% foreign-born. Its per-capita income is about half that of the U.S. average.

In addition to Rizzo's $787,637 salary, he received additional benefits that boosted his total annual compensation to more than $1.5 million. Other top administrators were also well-compensated. Bell paid  Adams $457,000 a year, about 50% more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck or Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, and more than double New York City's police commissioner. Spaccia made $376,288 annually, more than most city managers. All three resigned amid public uproar.

Brown's lawsuit was filed against Rizzo, Spaccia, Adams, Mayor Oscar Hernandez, council members Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabel and former council members Victor Bello and George Cole.

-- Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives

Top photo: Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown announces that he is filing a lawsuit against top officials in Bell. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Bell Vice Mayor Teresa Jacobo, left, Mayor Oscar Hernandez, councilman George Mirabal and councilman Luis Artiga. Jacobo and Hernandez are named in the lawsuit. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Full coverage: www.latimes.com/bell

Comments () | Archives (47)

Maybe justice will be done...and I want to thank Attorney Jim Spertus for his public comments which always give me a great laugh :)

Let's file a lawsuit against Rizzo's attorney, Jim Spertus, for Worst Defense in support of a scumbag.

the wise cracks and attitude just keep comming from Rizzo and Rizzo's people - like from his attorney in this article quiping about election cycle politics as purportedly reflected in the AG suit - wheather true or not that arrogance is out of line - instead Rizzo needs to be concerned whether jail time will be included ultimatley and comments like that don't help his case - esp when sentencing happens after a conviction (which is practically certain here). it just shows how much power he had and was so used to getting his own way, its really not dawning on him just yet how much trouble he is in.

These guys have taken millions from a starving city. They are people who step over working, starving kids. Humans. They do not even care how many kids and people may have parished because of the foul, illegal use of that poor city and it's modest revenue to say the least. Who do they think they are? Even the way they sit, pompus, condesending to the working, sweating people, kids included. A city of 40,000 footing those bills. Look at those guys, is this a complicated case?
Dear Justice Deparment,
This invesigation should be done by now and ole Jerry riding on the coat tails of this. STEP IT UP.

throw them all in jail and throw the keys !
Did you notice that most (or is it ALL of them) are Hispanic, this ain't MEXICO yet !

I applaud Jerry Brown for his handling the most inhumane and outrageous crime that the Bell officials have defrauded poor residents of Bell. These are residents who work hard for a daily livelihood. I cannot still fathom their being evils and took advantage of people who depended on them.

The city needs to be dissolved and placed back under the county. Wipe it clean and start over when the residents believe they are ready again for cityhood.

I hope the State wins this one.

Only until he gets elected.

Not all Laws are Just. These public officials trying to hide under the law should be ashamed and go to jail for abusing their powers for monetary gain. They know that they represent a city that barely function because of financial problems, but they do not have any problems fattening their wallets at the expense of their constituents.

Can anyone say moonbeam publicity!

Bravo! You go, Jerry!

I am so glad that Brown is trying to give them the boot, but what would really tick me off is if they get that huge pension that those corrupt officials think they're gonna get. They should be locked in jail.

Sure Jerry, "this is a matter that cries out for justice." What also cries out
for justice is your revealing what YOUR double dip pension is between
your positions of Gov. and Atty General. So far you won't divulge your
own pension but you want others to take a hit. Listen up Moonbeam,
if you reveal your own pension, you won't get elected as Gov. again.
THAT'S why you are covering up the truth. REVEAL YOUR OWN

"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on at Rick's!" Tell me Mr. Brown, as the same applies to many public employee unions that boosted their own pay and benefits via questionable means, are you likewise going after them with the power of the Attorney General's office?

Applause ! This is a great beginning to clean up America. One city , One State One at a time across the country, and them start from the top management. We hire Politicians to protect us to work on our behalf to better the lives and living and Keep America the beautiful alive... the en Evironment, the economy the lives of the people, and this has been the worst I have ever seen on greed and all about Bad management and decision making for self centered people. Other highly compensated employees and people taking advantage of the system. We need protection against means , motive and opportunity and the wrong doers should be exposed . There are way too many coverups!
Wisdom is knowing the right path to take and the intergrity in taking it I thank you Senator Brown.

if its bell,,,,,,,,,its swell

Thank You Jerry Brown for showing us some semblance of justice.

I thought I posted this already but others have been released since then. Sorry if it's a duplicate:

Why is this a civil suit by the Attorney General. Isn't fraud, conspiracy and misuse of funds criminal activity?

I think this is

a) electioneering on Jerry's part, trying to look like he's doing something quickly. Criminal proceedings require justification for an indictment, civil proceeding do not.

b) the problem is Bell officials haven't really done anything most California politicians do. They just got greedy and made headlines. Why is a $600K/year pension criminal but a $500K or $400K not? Same with their salaries and the taxes and everything else they did. If Brown were to claim any of that is a crime, he would have to look at Oakland officials also.

Thank you Jerry Brown, for doing your elected job.

Oh Jerry, LA is next to all these places too. Please come clean house here! Our slimy mayor, City Council, LA Unified and DWP await your broom.

They should be prosecuted for fraud and larceny

Jerry, I think you need to step out and tell us how much your pension is going to payout to you too buddy.

Whatever "TRUTH", guess the timing just works in his favor, huh?
Someone should have told the Bell officials to avoid being caught until AFTER the election.

get em. sick it to em. beat em down

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