Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Steve Lopez: Was I too hard on Robert Rizzo? No way

Robert Rizzo

To critics who say I was too harsh or unfair for attempting to interview Robert Rizzo, the reviled former Bell city official who is now guarding a parking lot in Huntington Beach, I've carefully considered the criticism and have two things to say.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4150cbe970b-piFirst, I have no regrets. Second, I'm not sorry. I thought it was worth asking Rizzo if he had any regrets or would like to apologize for the fiasco in Bell.

He has been essentially unresponsive and unavailable since the story broke, and I thought it was worth trying to get him to talk when I had a rare chance.

He is charged with more than 50 felonies and is accused, along with cohorts, of misappropriating millions of dollars in a poor community, while concealing the fact that his annual compensation was in the $1.5-million neighborhood.

Citizens paid astronomical taxes during this period, and among the money allegedly raided was a low-income housing fund. In the grand tradition of bellying up to the public trough, Rizzo stands charged as a champion, a high achiever and a Hall of Famer, make no mistake.

As he awaits trial, the city of Bell suffers the devastating effects of years of deception and mismanagement, and it may take many more years for fiscal order to be restored. If you'd like to read a columnist who would pass on the opportunity to ask the man about his alleged deeds, and yes, to put his feet to the fire, you should immediately find another columnist.

I'd also like to say that despite one reader's claim that Latinos like me should be kicked out of the country, I'm actually thinking of staying, at least until I see what happens at Rizzo's trial.

-- Steve Lopez

Photo: Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo has a new gig as a parking lot attendant in Huntington Beach. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (127)

Steve: Did you ask Rizzo why he was performing his community service in Huntington Beach rather than the city of Bell?

Only "one reader" wanting you kicked out of the country?

Based on the other articles comment sections, it would appear that the entire Fox News audience has infiltrated the L.A. Times!

The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous, and unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry."1
put that fat RAT in jail were he belongs,STOP the dubble standard again. FUBAR!!

If anything, Steve was too nice to this scumbag. He's the worst sort of politician.

When the Bell scandal first broke, Rizzo argued that his $800,000 salary as city manager was justified because he would earn at least that much in the private sector. Well, now he is working in the private sector as a parking lot attendant. I guess he discovered he's not worth that much after all. My sense is that most any public servant would end up in a similar job if they tried their luck in the private sector. Public employees are vastly overpaid and underskilled in the state of California, which accounts for the budgetary mess we are in. Fire half of them and cut salaries, benefits, and pensions for the remainder. Problem solved.

Nice job. I am not sure if you should be considered a journalist or a columnist, but both jobs were served and served well. There was nothing cruel or insidious about the column. No family was mentioned and the subject had the opportunity to speak. As far as painting him in a particular light, well, I think he has done a fair job of that on his own.

Even after his possible convictions on all of the felony counts, there is a possibility that my tax dollars will still have to pay his elephantine pension. He will get his day in court. Until then, he is a public figure that will have to face media scrutiny. If he didn't want a public dissection of his life, perhaps he should have stayed out of public office.

I believe that the exposure of this case by the Times has a huge "ripple effect" that will collectively save us hundreds of millions of dollars and keep people's hands out of the cookie jar.

I must admit that money has been tight for me and I had been considering canceling my subscription to the Times. Following this story, I am cutting back elsewhere and fully supporting the Times - please continue to keep up the good work......


Well Steve, While I agree with everything you just wrote, you choose not to address the bulk of the criticism you received for your article. The recruitment of customers at Starbucks to confront the loser. THAT(and divulging the location of the parking lot) is what was unethicle and dangerous in mine and most of the minds of people who commented on your article. Do you have a response to that? If not, then your response was just smoke, incomplete. Surely since you felt the need to respond, you've read the criticism and the one I describe was the MAJOR point. You convienantly omit that from your response..Asking the guy about his situation is one thing. Calling him names, appropriate or not, is also one thing. Afterall, as the guy above states, you are a columnist, not a reporter. Encouraging strangers to confront the man though, constitutes a premeditated act that could very well end up in violence. I've read and enjoyed literally all your columns. However, I truely believe you encouraged people to harass the man without any concideration that the random people you recruited may not be as stable as you are and could have easily, and still could present a real danger of violence to Mr. Rizzo. If that's your intention then you were spot on. I don't believe it was. If not, then, again, respond to that criticism. Not just the easy stuff. Whether I think the loser should be jailed (he should), beaten, humiliated (he should be but probably isn't), whatever, is my right to feel and yours also. Encouraging strangers to confront him and validate your article is simply irresponsible and dangerous. Your employer has a responsibility to keep themselves free of the liability you've put them in. The LA Times shares the potential criminal responsibility you've created for them. If I'm your boss, I'm not happy with your judgement.

You did your job like a Surf Sherlock. He's a pig; looks like one, apparently eats like one and got caught with his snout and trotters in the trough.

"Do you surf?" - priceless!!! I love it that you asked Rizo that question. No, you were not too hard on the man.

Hard on Robert Rizzo? Suggesting the death penalty or chemical castration would be hard on this sub-scum parasite. I'm surprised an angry mob of 35,000 Bell residents hasn't already drawn and quartered him with the illegally impounded vehicles taken from them. Can you believe he even blames his obesity on his dedication in managing, er, mismanaging the city (see early fleeting interviews)? Columnist Lopez was actually courteous and polite while asking the hard questions. Rizzo has been consistently defiant, unashamed and unremorseful. He admits absolutely no wrongdoing while collecting 1.5 million under the counter. Lopez writes he is one of the highest paid appointed officials, but the obvious reality is that he has to be the single highest paid official in ANY democracy worldwide. I challenge anyone to find a higher paid official in a freely elected democracy, and this from a tiny city of 35,000; not an collection of a dozen country/colonies like the former "Sun never sets on the British Empire."

You let him off to easy Steve. If you get another chance make him squeal like a pig.

Lopez are you "Latino" or didn't your ancestors come straight from Spain.

My dad insists he is not "Latino" because his parents are Spanish immigrants who look European and never set foot in Latin America. He prefers "Hispanic" which makes sense but is really odd in this part of the country.

Anyway, don't leave yet. Your commentary is clever and amusing even when I don't agree with you.

Wow, Steve, you completely missed the point. The criticism was not that YOU confronted him and asked him questions -- that's a perfectly legitimate role for a journalist. But to have orchestrated a news story by inciting two Starbucks patrons to confront him, and to have published the location of the parking lot so that others can confront him, is irresponsible. Where are the editors at this place??!!??

Thank you Steve Lopez and the L.A. Times for your journalistic integrity and for doing a fine job. You do not need to apologize and let's be clear on a couple of facts: there is nothing wrong, illegal or offensive about wanting to interview someone who is alleged to have committed 50 or more felonies and who could end up spending the rest of his low-calorie-diet life in prison. There is nothing wrong, illegal or offensive about demanding accountability and transparency from a public official whose salary and job description were underwritten and legislated with taxpayers money. Keep up your fine work, Mr. Steve Lopez !!

Mary Alice / pheonixandrew

You idiots avoid the real criticism also. No one has a problem with interviewing the loser, asking the "hard" questions. The criticism he neglects to address as you two dolts do as well is: recruiting strangers to confront him. That is abusing his position as a publically read journalist.
That is promoting potential violence under the umbrella of a major newspaper. Irresponsible at the least and criminally liable at the worst. Not smart, period. Care to respond to that?

Steve, refusal to admit mistakes is the sign of arrogance you hate some much in Rizzo.

Asking him for an interview isn't a bad thing. You may have done it badly, but he's a public figure in a public place, so no one expects much more.

On the other hand,
1. calling him names in a column,
2. pointing him out to others,
3. inciting them to give him a piece of their minds, and
4. ridiculing him for how he took it,
all of those are big mistakes you made. And you seem to be proud of them too. It is rude, it is tacky, and childish.

You have a column in a major paper, and supposedly take the high ground, the morally principled stand. But you still have no problem with calling the fat kid names and kicking him when he can't defend himself.

Great work Steve.

That fat bastard should be beer battered and fried.

Oh, and I'm noticing the comments on the Column and comments here in the Blog are different. Over there you must register, over here it just blows away with the wind. Classy again.

You say that you have carefully considered the criticism, but you haven't. Attempting to interview Rizzo is not a crime. What you wrote about your attempt and about trying to sic Starbucks denizens on the poor bastard is spiteful and an abuse of your position. Ranting against a target as easy as Rizzo is vulgar precisely because his many sins are already known to all and because he will be tried for them in court. Rather than shed light, you've spewed vitriol. Your pride in that is misguided.

You did what many would want to do, in a more civilized way.
No explanation necessary.
I loved reading the article.

I had no problem with confronting, him, but using terms like "Humpty Dumpty" and "Jabba the Hutt" were not only unprofessional, but infantile. Rizzo is a scumbag because he violated the public trust and is a greedy SOB, not because he is fat or italian or any other unrelated trait.

I'd wager not one of those who criticized you live in Bell. Those critics who defend Ratso Rizzo might as well call themselves leaches and scum buckets too.

Steve Lopez has distinguished himself as a true intellectual Fagan. Instead of addressing the actual criticisms people had of his piece on Rizzo, Lopez made a clusmy attempt at spinning what he'd written yesterday. Most of the posts about Lopez's original article had to do with Rizzo's right to due process. Lopez is too much of a coward to touch this issue in his retort, so instead he took the easy way out and focused on the messages which blasted him for confronting Rizzo. On top of that, Lopez attempts to play the race card in his last sentence. The state will probably prove Robert Rizzo guilty when he goes to trial, but Steve Lopez has already proven himself to be a craven lackwit who relies on ad hominem rebuttals instead of bare-knuckles logic.

I share the feeling that this is Mr. Lopez's column and he is allowed to be irreverent. His word choice was fair as he was describing what he saw. Robert Rizzo has defamed not only himself and his city but public servants nationwide. I wish we all knew more about what he did wrong, but he isn't talking so people are going to take the easiest shots. That's nothing new.

« | 1 2 3 4 5 6 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
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.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Please send to newstips@latimes.com
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: