Southern California -- this just in

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

Lawsuit against Bell suggests voter fraud in 2009 election

July 27, 2010 |  2:13 pm

A lawsuit filed Monday by a former Bell police officer makes a variety of serious allegations about city officials and suggests voter fraud in a 2009 election.

According to the lawsuit, filed by James Corcoran, off-duty police officers in Bell distributed absentee ballots in a 2009 municipal election and told would-be voters which candidates to support.

The former police sergeant alleges in the suit that he was forced out of his job of 25 years in retaliation for informing state and federal authorities about the officers’ actions and reporting alleged misconduct involving City Administrator Robert Rizzo and other city officials.

Attorneys for the city did not return calls or respond to e-mails seeking comment.

Corcoran alleged that in 2009 he reported to the California secretary of State and the FBI “that off-duty police officers were taking absentee ballots and providing them to voters to fill out” and that officers were instructing individuals how to vote.

He also asserted that ballots were filled out for people who were dead.

In a June 2009 letter to the secretary of state, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, Corcoran alleged that the city manager, two police officers and other city officials engaged in voter fraud.

The secretary of state's office declined to discuss the case -- to say whether the allegations were investigated or whether the case was still active. The FBI also declined to comment. According to sources, the Los Angeles district attorney’s office is looking into the allegations.

Residents in Bell have been up in arms since it was disclosed that the top administrator and council members were paid far more than their counterparts elsewhere in the state and perhaps the nation. The city manager, police chief and assistant city manager resigned last week amid escalating anger, and Monday evening, council members agreed to reduce their nearly $100,000-a-year salaries by 90% or to go without pay altogether.

Corcoran’s attorney, Greg Smith, said his client was a decorated officer forced out last April because he was a “whistleblower.” He said Corcoran told Bell Police Chief Randy Adams that he had reported his allegations about election wrongdoing to outside agencies.

Adams, one of three top city administrators who resigned last week, could not be reached for comment.

In his lawsuit, Corcoran also alleges the city of Bell tried to cover up an alleged attempted sexual assault by Rizzo. The retired sergeant said a female city employee complained to him in May 2009 that the city manager, “while heavily intoxicated," tried to prevent her from leaving his home and repeatedly attempted to sexually assault her.

The suit contends that Rizzo also told the employee that he admired Adolf Hitler.

Rizzo could not be reached for comment. ‬‪ Corcoran claimed in his suit that he was demoted from detective sergeant to patrol sergeant in November 2009, placed on administrative leave earlier this year and forced to retire in April to avoid termination for insubordination.

-- Richard Winton