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Dismayed by Bell city salaries, Downey removes city attorney

July 29, 2010 |  7:04 pm

Bell’s city attorney, Edward Lee, who served as legal counsel when the City Council approved lavish compensation packages for top administrators, was removed Thursday as city attorney for the neighboring city of Downey.

Lee, a partner with the firm Best, Best & Krieger, also serves as city attorney for several other municipalities. Until Thursday, that included Downey. But officials there were not happy that their lawyer was involved in what Downey Councilman Mario Guerra called one of the “most egregious breaches of fiduciary responsibilities in the history of our state.”

While serving as Bell’s city attorney, a position he had held since the 1990s, Lee signed off on contracts that paid City Manager Robert Rizzo nearly $800,000 a year, almost twice what President Obama makes. Police Chief Randy Adams got $457,000, more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

Four of the five council members were also earning nearly $100,000 a year.

Guerra said he was aghast at the idea that there would be “any association … directed at Downey with cities like … Bell. To be put in the same breath is an embarrassment to our city staff, City Council and more importantly, to our citizens. We are a great, conservative and ethical city, and any association with them and us is wrong and I resent it.”

The council voted 3 to 2 to terminate the contract with Best, Best & Krieger in closed session. Downey officials say Lee has been their attorney since 2007, and last year his firm was paid about $500,000. Guerra stressed that he has found no fault with the legal advice his city has received, but was distressed to see Lee on the news recently trying to calm an angry crowd at a Bell City Council meeting where residents went to complain about the huge salaries.

Lee could not be reached for comment.

-- Jessica Garrison

Investigating Bell: A Times special report:

Is a city manager worth $800,000?

In depth: High salaries in Bell

Interactive: How the salaries got so high


Bell residents are not happy about high salaries

High salaries fuel anger in Bell

Bell council members under investigation for $100,000 salaries

Video: Why do Bell officials make so much money? The Times' Jeff Gottlieb explains.

Bell city manager might be highest paid in nation

Bell council found loophole to allow big salaries

DA expands investigation of Bell

Bell salary scandal has other cities running for cover

Photos: Protests in Bell