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Former Bell city manager obscured his true salary, raising questions about validity of contracts

September 15, 2010 |  7:43 am
Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo went to considerable lengths to keep his huge salary secret, including actions that could invalidate his contracts and potentially require him to repay money he received, some experts believe.

According to records and interviews, the city of Bell and Rizzo himself represented his salary as being significantly lower than it was. When one city councilman asked Rizzo about his salary last year, the city manager gave him a sum that was less than half the approximately $700,000 Rizzo was actually earning at the time.

The steps Rizzo took that obscured his true pay began in September 2008. At that point, he was already earning about $632,700 a year, making him one of the highest-paid city managers in the nation. That month, Rizzo signed five new contracts that kept his salary the same but changed the way he was paid. Rather than getting his entire salary from his primary job as city manager, he would now be paid in chunks from a variety of city agencies.

The contracts were signed by Oscar Hernandez, who in the documents was identified as Bell's mayor, a position that rotates among council members. At the time, Hernandez was a councilman but not the mayor. The contracts were never approved by the City Council and never placed on the council agenda.

City officials are reviewing the contracts, looking at whether Rizzo attached a previous signature from Hernandez to them or persuaded him to sign the documents even though he was not mayor. Hernandez and the man who was mayor at the time, George Mirabal, declined to comment.

Read the full story here.

-- Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives