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More Bell employees earned huge salaries, city says [Updated]

August 6, 2010 |  4:00 pm

The Bell salary scandal grew Friday when the city acknowledged that more city workers received high salaries, including two who made more than $400,000 a year and three who made more than $200,000.

Bell's interim city manager, Pedro Carrillo, announced the salaries at a news conference Friday, vowing that it was "a new day" for Bell. He said the city attorney would immediately launch a salary study to insure that salaries are commensurate with experience and the area. Several activists disrupted the news conference, furious at the new revelations.

"We will take some very firm and bold moves," Carrillo said. "It could mean termination or reduction."

The lavish salaries released Friday show that that at least seven additional city employees – beyond the top three administrators reported by The Times – were making more than the average city manager in Los Angeles County. Among the highly paid are the director of administrative services, $422,707; director of general services, $421,402; the director of community services, $273,542; business development coordinator, $295,627; and a police captain earning $238,075. The names of the employees were not immediately released.

The Times had previously reported that the city's top administrator Robert Rizzo was paid $787,637 a year, Police Chief Randy Adams' salary was $457,000 and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia's was $376,000. All three resigned amid public uproar.

The revelations sparked public outrage and several investigations.

The Times reported that the city had cut spending on police and community services and raised taxes, even as it continued to grant raises to top executives.

Their salaries and Bell's hefty property taxes contrast sharply with city residents' financial standing. The median household income in Bell, just southeast of Los Angeles, is $40,556 — well below the countywide average of $57,152.

A Times survey of city manager compensation in Los Angeles County found the average was about $210,000.

Deputy Dist. Atty. David Demerjian, head of the district attorney's Public Integrity Division, which is investigating Bell's real estate deals, salaries and voter fraud, reacted with surprise to the newly published salaries.

"How can a city sustain itself with all these salaries? We're talking about millions of dollars," he said. "Wow. Everyone in L.A. County is going to want to work for the city of Bell now."

Demerjian said his office would pursue whether those salaries were lawful.

[Updated at 4:20 p.m.:  Documents obtained Friday by The Times also reveal that two top city officials received loans from the city.

Spaccia, the former assistant city manager, was given a $130,000 cash advance in March. A document signed by Rizzo gives says she is entitled to “an amount not to exceed $130,000.” It was to be repaid with interest no later than May 28.

Another document shows the city gave a $100,000 payment to Lourdes Garcia, director of administrative services, in March. Garcia's total annual compensation, including salary and benefits, is $422,707, according to information the city released Friday.

Carrillo said he has directed the city attorney to investigate the “propriety and legality” of the payments. He also said he believes Spaccia has repaid the loan but did not know when.

Demerjian said investigators would look into the new salaries and were also curious about the loans to Garcia and Spaccia.

Such loans would only be allowed if the city could show a clear benefit to the public. Sometimes municipal governments offer candidates for top jobs loans to entice them to live in their city. But experts said this is almost always the case only when a person is being asked to move to a city whose housing might be out of their price range. And this usually only comes up when an employee is first being hired.

Demerjian noted that in January, Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn pleaded guilty to a public corruption charge stemming from a $500,000 city loan he received.]

[Updated at 4:30 p.m.: The compensation figures released were for city-covered salary, deferred compensation and benefits.

Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate) said the numbers underscore the need for more transparency when it comes to municipal salaries.

“It just makes you wonder what the next shoe to drop will be in Bell. Again, the gravy train was not just for the top people,” he said.  “How could you keep these kind of salaries a secret? I think $400,000, $300,000 salaries for middle managers is the explanation.”]

--Jeff Gottlieb, Ruben Vives and Hector Becerra