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L.A. County supervisors order audit of Bell's finances

October 19, 2010 |  8:04 pm

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday directed county auditors to conduct a comprehensive review of Bell’s finances to determine whether the scandal-plagued city is solvent.

“Bell residents know their civic house is in disarray,” said Supervisor Gloria Molina. “There is no way order can be restored in Bell until residents there have an accurate picture of the city’s finances.”

Since the enormous salaries of top administrators and elected officials were revealed in July, the city and its finances have been under growing scrutiny. The state attorney general’s office has sued eight current or former city leaders, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has filed felony corruption-related charges against past and current leaders and the city has been forced to roll back property taxes that the state controller’s office deemed illegal.

Now, with Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown considering seeking a monitor to watch over the city, or even a court-appointed receiver to essentially run the town, county supervisors have elected to step in and review Bell’s fiscal state. 

Auditors are expected to report back in 30 days, said Auditor-Controller Wendy Watanabe. 

In addition, Watanabe said homeowners in Bell will begin to get property tax refunds. The city improperly collected about $2.9 million in taxes from July 2007 to June 2010, the state controller determined.

Those refunds will come from the municipal treasury in Bell, further straining the city’s finances.

An initial batch of refunds will be mailed the first week of November to homeowners. Residents who have sold or transferred ownership of their homes could receive refunds by mid-December, Watanabe said.

-- Ruben Vives

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