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Bell City Council considers cutting its $100,000 salaries

July 26, 2010 |  7:37 am

The embattled Bell City Council will meet Monday night to consider cutting council member pay, which is now considered significantly higher than that of other cities of the same size.

The move comes three days after the council announced the resignations of three top city administrators, including the city manager who was making nearly $800,000 a year.

Bell council members make nearly $100,000 a year -- a sum that is now the subject of an inquiry by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

A state law enacted in 2005 limits the pay of council members in "general law" cities, a category that includes most cities in Southern California. That law was passed in reaction to the high salaries that leaders in South Gate had bestowed on themselves earlier in the decade.

But the year that law passed, the Bell City Council authorized a special election with only one item on the ballot -- a measure calling for Bell to convert to a "charter" city. The move was billed as giving the city more local control. The ballot language included no mention of the effect the change would have on council members' salaries.

Since passage of the measure, salaries for council members -- part-time employees -- have jumped more than 50%, from $61,992 a year to at least $96,996.

The Times revealed last week that the city's top officials have lucrative contracts that pay them some of the highest municipal wages in the country. City Manager Robert Rizzo is paid $787,637 a year; Police Chief Randy Adams makes $457,000 and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia makes $376,288.

State Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown said he had ordered an investigation into the high salaries, calling the compensation packages "almost beyond belief." He said that the administrators' pay "morally borders on a gift of public funds" and that his office would "exhaust every possibility under California law'' to determine if Bell's leaders acted illegally.

-- Ruben Vives and Jeff Gottlieb