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Bell residents protest as City Council prepares to meet about reforms

August 16, 2010 |  7:14 pm

As the Bell City Council was preparing to meet Monday evening regarding proposed reforms in the scandal-plagued city, hundreds of community members swarmed the grounds of City Hall. They waved signs that read, "We don't want you!" and "Rizzo's Puppets," the latter of which referred to the former city manager and council members.

The rally was organized by Bell Assn. to Stop the Abuse and drew an excited crowd that included young children and senior citizens.

Into one loudspeaker held high, residents took turns shouting their demands for the council members to resign. "Fuera, fuera, fuera!" (Out, out, out!), chanted the crowd in reply.

Nora Saenz, 31, passed out fliers she'd made that called for protesting a proposed contract that would pay interim City Manager Pedro Carrillo $175,000 until July 2011.

Saenz said she had never before been involved in civic affairs but hopes to set an example for her 9-year-old daughter by taking action now.

"Had the community been a little more involved, all of this could've been prevented," she said. "But now we're vigilant, we're fighting, and we want to clean up our city."

Among the reforms the City Council was expected to consider were a rollback of property taxes, turning over administration of city elections to Los Angeles County and reducing the cost of obtaining public records.

The council's action comes as local and state authorities have opened investigations into City Hall finances, the high salaries of top administrators and possible election fraud.

The Times reported that while top city officials were earning some of the highest salaries in the nation for their jobs, residents were paying higher taxes than all but one city in Los Angeles County.
Bell’s city manager, who resigned last month along with the police chief and the assistant city manager, was earning nearly $800,000 a year and stands to make about $600,000 in retirement. In all, five City Hall employees' annual salaries were more than $350,000.

 -- Corina Knoll at Bell City Hall

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