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Bell residents slam Whitman for trying to link their city's woes to Brown

August 11, 2010 | 10:43 pm

Bell residents blasted Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman for equating the salary and pension fiasco unfolding in their city with what occurred in Oakland when Democratic rival Jerry Brown was that city’s mayor.

“We have a simple message for Meg Whitman. Don’t take the suffering of Bell residents and use it for political purposes. Cease and desist!” said Denise Rodarte, a representative of the Bell Assn. to Stop the Abuse.

Bell has been reeling from revelations first reported in the Los Angeles Times that top city officials were being paid as much as $787,637. Several have already resigned, and Republican Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley and Brown, the state’s current attorney general, have teamed up for an investigation.

Glossy mailers and widespread advertisements by Whitman began appearing in Los Angeles County mailboxes and radio stations Wednesday. In both the mailers and the ads, Whitman charges Brown with presiding over his own Bell-style salary scandal while he was mayor of Oakland.

Experts have said that though Whitman’s accusations raise questions about Brown’s management skills, the questionable practices that occurred in Oakland do not compare with what occurred in Bell.

The candidates have also sparred over whether Brown was using his office to gain political steam as his official campaign is vastly out-funded by Whitman, a billionaire who has spent $91 million of her own money on her campaign.

The Bell residents’ group called Whitman’s claims “ridiculous.”

“On the facts, the brochure stretches credulity by comparing salaries of administrators in Oakland, (pop. 800,000) making less than $200,000 to the excesses of Bob Rizzo and company whose salaries all exceeded $400,000 and were as much as $1.5 million in a city of 40,000 residents,” according to the group’s press release.

The organization says that it approached Brown about launching a criminal investigation.

“We were very clear with the Attorney General’s Office that we wanted this investigation to remain above politics. His office was gracious and agreed that complete objectivity was necessary to conduct a thorough and fair investigation. In the eyes of BASTA Jerry Brown has lived up to his words,” Rodarte said. “Meg Whitman, on the other hand, is acting like a cynical, self-serving individual. Again, we ask her to stop using Bell as a campaign issue.”

Awaiting a response from Team Whitman.

-- Seema Mehta