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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)


The museum should keep him and charge a sideshow fee with a sign posting "Ex public official who brought down an entire city to its knees due to excessive use of the seven deadly sins, literally and in vain". Like I am really outta line; too much freedom and not enough education does not make you a genius folks!

Well done Steve.
Anyone who thinks you were too hard on Ratso does not have a handle on what this guy has done. He embezzled millions of dollars while purporting to be working a job designed to serve the people of the same community he stole from. What a lying hyopcrite?! He did it for years. He allowed (possibly encouraged) his peers and subordinates to do it.

Every single day for years he was lying and thieving from an entire community. It's actions and people like this who bloat our bureaucracy. Who doesn't want to pay less taxes? Your taxes will only increase with people like Rizzo running running the asylum and taking more for himself and his friends while ignoring the effects on the broader community.

Also, to have so flagrantly done wrong for so long seemingly without fear of retributions suggests that we live in too lenient a society. This guy is guilty as hell and should be behind bars right now. If you're a guilty criminal in this country, you benefit from our extremely fair, innocent before proven guilty, and slow judicial system. Half the time, these guys get incredibly reduced sentences anyway.

To all those who scolded Steve Lopez's 'harsh' column, I genuinely want to know how you could not be mad at this guy? Do you honestly think justice will be served through our court system? Do you have no empathy for the people he stole from for years? Obviously not, because if you did you would also feel their anger. How would you feel if I stole from you for years and years, my theivery was revealed and then a week later you saw me sitting in a lawn chair across the street basking in the sun? If you wouldn't feel any anger, explain yourself.

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