Bell mayor needs police escort to attend City Council meeting
Police officers in Bell are escorting the city’s mayor to the council meeting and city officials said it appears the City Council will have its first legal meeting since most of the city’s elected leaders were arrested in a public corruption case.
Mayor Oscar Hernandez, who has been seen infrequently since his arrest, has told police that he fears for his family’s safety. Police said they offered to escort him to Monday's meeting out of safety concerns.
Last month’s meeting was abruptly canceled after one council member resigned, another failed to make bail and two called in sick, raising questions about how the city would continue to function.
Only Lorenzo Velez, the lone councilman not charged with a felony, attended the meeting, electing to listen to angry residents take turns venting even though the meeting was not formal.
Since four council members were arrested in September and charged with misappropriating more than $5 million from the city treasury, Bell’s leaders have kept a low profile, making no public appearances.
Monday’s agenda offered little but glum business for council members, who were asked to clear the way for their own recall by approving petition signatures verified by the county registrar of Voters, setting a special election to replace a colleague who resigned after being jailed and meeting in closed session to discuss Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown’s lawsuit alleging that city officials conspired to conceal their lucrative salaries.
-- Ruben Vives and Corina Knoll, reporting from Bell