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Rizzo, other Bell officials misused affordable-housing funds, state audit finds

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Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo and other top administrators paid part of their high salaries by taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from a fund that was to be used to provide housing for low-income residents in the small working-class city, according to a state audit released Wednesday.

In addition, the audit found the city consistently misused the affordable-housing funds by spending the money on everything from cellphone fees to automotive costs.

State Controller John Chiang said his office found repeated management failures and at least $1.2 million of what it described as “inappropriate payments” in its redevelopment agency and gas tax funds.

Chiang wrote Bell Interim City Administrator Pedro Carrillo that "we found apparent misuse of redevelopment funds for personal gain by the former Chief Administrator and other senior officials. There is no evidence to suggest that the redevelopment agency governing board, comprised entirely of the members of the Bell City Council, engaged in any meaningful oversight of the Redevelopment Agency activities.”

The audit found that council members were paid $55.38 every two weeks as redevelopment board members even though the board sometimes never met and the majority of the meetings lasted for three minutes or less. It also found that two people received $27.69 every other week even though they no longer were board members.

The auditor last month found the city improperly collected about $2.9 million in taxes from July 2007 to June 2010.

That report described Bell as city with no fiscal controls and one that had placed its treasury entirely in the hands of Rizzo.

“These audit revelations bring us one step closer to a full and complete accounting of what went wrong in the city of Bell,” Chiang said Wednesday. “Public money dedicated to increasing affordable housing and maintaining local roads were instead used as a self-indulgent slush fund to pay for excessive salaries, perks and other unlawful expenses.”

The audit found that $242,268 from a redevelopment fund was used to pay the salaries of Rizzo, Assistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia and Director of Administrative Services Lourdes Garcia, although there was no evidence they did any work for the fund.

The controller's office is just one of several agencies investigating activities in Bell, including the Los Angeles County district attorney, the state attorney general, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice.

--Jeff Gottlieb

Photo: Robert Rizzo in court last month. Credit: L.A. Times

 
Comments () | Archives (8)

I bet they didn't pay for their coffee in the break room, either.

WOW! It's starting to look like those greedy, corrupt bozos completely looted the city of Bell.

So, will any of this actually translate into the elimination of their fat pensions? Is there really any way to stop white collar thieves in this country from profiting? Articles like this offer hope, but I'm sure that in the end Rizzo and his gang of crooks will sit pretty with their high-six-figure pensions while the rest of us go broke with nothing.

The whole public employee system in California has been cheating the taxpayer for decades. Pension spiking, absurdly high salaries, double, triple, and quadruple dipping. The civil servant unions call this "the middle class getting a piece of what they deserve". All wealath classes in the private sector call this "theft".

I wonder how long we'll have to wait for indictments and prosecution of these crooks? Years?

I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!!!

Uh...excuse me, but is this a breaking story? Should we be shocked at what else Porky Pig Rizzo has done?

What was the Director of Administrative Services doing? Isn't it her job to control what monies are being used where and for what? She is or was making more than the Assistant City Administrator, Angela Spaccia. Yet, I still have not seen the name of Lourdes Garcia on an indictment list. I'm sure she should be held responsible for some or part of the misuse of funds which has been happening in the City of Bell. I also heard that she has done other actions to benefit her on family members that would raise a few eyebrows.


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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