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Reporters, photographers stake out Robert Rizzo's Huntington Beach residence

October 7, 2010 | 11:05 am


Television news trucks were camped out on Lake Street by dawn Thursday morning, but there was still no sign that Robert Rizzo had returned to his Huntington Beach home.

The former Bell city manager, one of eight current or former city officials facing charges in a public-corruption scandal, had been released just before midnight on Wednesday, hours after a Los Angeles County judge said she was satisfied that assets being posted for his $2-million bail did not come from illegal activity.

Still neighbors say they haven't glimpsed Rizzo, 56, or his wife and daughter for quite a while.

"I can't imagine they'll come back," said Cheryl Lamont, who lives two doors down from the Rizzos. "Since all this broke, he's hardly ever here."

Even before the Bell scandal gained nationwide attention, Lamont said, Rizzo kept to himself, never waved or smiled and made no effort to be friendly. She said her only encounter with him came after he ran into her mailbox in March and was arrested for driving under the influence. Prosecutors said he had a blood alcohol level of 0.28%, more than three times the legal limit. Rizzo pleaded guilty in the case.

"He apologized for the mishap; there was no discussion whatsoever," Lamont said. "He sent a very nice, competent contractor, and now it looks nice."

Two weeks ago, when Rizzo was arrested in the public-corruption case, his block stirred with curiosity, and residents talked among themselves outside their homes.

Dennis McFarland, who lives next door to Rizzo, happened to see the actual arrest.

"We were leaving at the same time, driving north in the alley, and he was in front of us," McFarland said. "All of a sudden an unmarked, dark SUV pulled in and headed straight for Rizzo. Blue lights turned on and the doors opened up and big men got out and handcuffed him. It was pretty dramatic. It was like watching a movie."

Now that his neighborhood is often a destination for reporters, McFarland said he has grown used to people knocking on his door.

"It's a little intrusive, but the guy's getting what he deserves," he said. "I'm just sorry we're next to him."

-- Corina Knoll

Photo: Former Bell city manager Robert Rizzo leaves jail after posting $2-million bail. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times