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Supervisors want Bell to go into receivership

September 21, 2010 | 11:59 am

California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown should quickly ask a judge to remove authority from the scandal-plagued Bell City Council and hand over management of day-to-day affairs to a court-appointed independent official, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors said Tuesday.

Such an action against an elected city council may be unprecedented and would move the state into uncharted legal territory.

The motion was approved 4-0, wth Supervisor Michael Antonovich absent.

It was written before Tuesday morning's arrest of eight current and former Bell city officials, which raised serious questions of how to effectively run the tiny, working-class city of 40,000 people in southeast Los Angeles County.

Specifically, the motion calls on Brown to use any legal measure at his disposal, including temporary restraining orders, to ask a judge to swiftly remove authority from the Bell City Council. In her motion, Supervisor Gloria Molina said the city's leaders have proven themselves "unable to govern ethically, fairly or competently."

"We're very concerned. We're trying to sort out and figure out how to bring order to this city. It seems to be in crisis," Molina, the motion's author, whose district includes the city of Bell, said at Tuesday's meeting.

Molina's motion endorses the court appointment of an "independent receiver" to take over the day-to-day management of the city. It is one of the solutions Brown suggested last week.

An independent receiver would act as a court-appointed regent for the city of Bell — basically with the powers of the City Council and city manager. An equivalent concept is a judge appointing a new, independent chief executive to a bankrupt, scandal-plagued company — a nonpartisan person who can manage its daily affairs.

The independent receiver would have the ability to hire people and enter into contracts until the residents can elect new City Council members.

Molina's motion supports the stripping of virtually all authority from the Bell City Council, and calls on the county registrar-recorder, rather than the Bell city clerk, to oversee city elections.

The motion harshly rebuked the current City Council majority.

"This kind of blatant, pervasive and unchecked corruption is made worse by the fact that Attorney General Brown's claims are made against a majority of the current sitting members of the Bell City Council who have yet to resign their positions. In fact, the Bell City Council continues to meet regularly — often in closed session. They still exercise direct authority over the very city affairs they have shown themselves to be unable to govern ethically, fairly or competently," Molina's motion states.

Mario Rivas, 36, a Bell resident for 22 years who has served two tours in Iraq with the California National Guard, told the supervisors Tuesday that he supported putting his city into an independent receivership.

"The corruption in Bell rivals those in Iraq and Afghanistan," Rivas said. "The public trust in Bell has been obliterated. Everything is suspect and the level of mistrust is unprecedented."

-- Rong-Gong Lin II at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration