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Beverly Hills, Santa Monica bail out beleaguered Bell

September 12, 2011 |  5:45 pm

Bell city 
For a while, it seemed like nobody wanted anything to do with Bell –- least of all, work for the city.

Battered by a massive corruption case that led to criminal charges against eight former officials, the small, working-class town in southeast Los Angeles County had difficulty hiring administrators and even struggled to find a firm to audit its books.

But now Bell is getting some unexpected help from well-heeled towns like Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.

Those cities, and others, have agreed to lend top-flight workers to help the city right itself and dig out of a financial mess that has left Bell on the edge of insolvency.

Beverly Hills, for instance, is expected to provide Bell a management analyst and an IT analyst who will help update the city’s computer system and draw up new city policies.

The city of San Mateo, more than 300 miles north, has already sent a human resources director to help out, and in the coming days a temporary city clerk is expected to show up.

Santa Monica, meanwhile, dispatched its deputy police chief to help Bell’s interim city administrator, the second person to run the town since Robert Rizzo was forced out and subsequently charged with public corruption.

Rizzo, his former assistant and six former council members are awaiting trial on felony charges of draining Bell’s treasury by paying themselves exorbitant salaries and top-of-the-line retirement benefits and taking personal loans.

The help-Bell movement is being championed by the International City Management Assn. and the California League of Cities, organizations that were deeply critical of the city’s leadership.

In addition to the pro bono work from places like Beverly Hills, several retired government employees have offered to help the city at no cost.


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--Ruben Vives

Photo: Residents gather in front of Bell City Hall last year to cheer the arrest of Robert Rizzo and seven other former leaders. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin