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Bell cops ask D.A. to investigate their former chief and suspend lieutenant allegedly rewarded by Rizzo

October 28, 2010 | 12:00 pm

Members of the police union in scandal-plagued Bell on Thursday demanded a deeper investigation of the city’s former police chief and the suspension of a police lieutenant who they suggest was rewarded an excessive salary and benefits because of his close relationship with former City Administrator Robert Rizzo.

Officers in the small, working-class city said they want the Los Angeles County district attorney to investigate whether former Police Chief Randy Adams helped squash an investigation into wrongdoing in City Hall and if he continues to have a relationship with officials in Bell.

They alleged that the department has been unable to account for the former chief's gun and badge, and asked the D.A. to determine whether he still has the items.

Police officers also asked for the suspension Lt. Ty Henshaw and a probe of his role into possible voter fraud.

Union members distributed e-mail correspondences between Rizzo and other city administrators in which Rizzo asks that Henshaw’s salary be boosted to $10,500 a month.

“I know this is going way over the line, but Ty has been the only one in the PD who has fully worked with us and I completely trust,” Rizzo writes in a June 30, 2009, e-mail.

Officer Gilbert Jara, president of the Bell police union, said citizens’ faith and trust in the small police force has been “violated” because of the relationship between Rizzo, Henshaw and Adams.

"We believe it's time to take a hard look at those in the Bell Police Department who collaborated with Robert Rizzo," Jara said.

The Times reported the usually high salaries of council members and top administrators in July, and a subsequent investigation by the Los Angeles County district attorney resulted in a sweeping public corruption case that alleges city leaders misappropriated more than $5 million from the city treasury.

Eight officials, including Rizzo, Mayor Oscar Hernandez and five current or former council members were arrested on felony corruption-related charges.

In addition, state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown filed suit against Adams, Rizzo, Hernandez and five others alleging they schemed to enrich themselves by inflating their salaries and pensions, and attempted to conceal their compensation. The suit asks for hundreds of thousands in refunds from the city leaders.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department is investigating possible civil rights violations in Bell focusing in part on allegations the city improperly used towing fees and other city fines to generate revenue.

Law enforcement sources have told The Times that the investigation is looking at whether city officials violated the civil rights of Latino residents with its aggressive towing practices that involved charging residents exorbitant fees to get their vehicles back.

The city, which also has been ordered to refund property taxes that the state claims it illegally collected from residents, is in precarious financial shape and Brown’s office has asked the courts to appoint a monitor to watch over the city and its treasury.

-- Corina Knoll, reporting from Bell