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Bell council initially agreed to severance package for Rizzo, source says

October 7, 2010 |  6:43 pm

A source familiar with the negotiations to get Robert Rizzo to resign as Bell’s city administrator said the City Council initially agreed to a severance package and other benefits but later voted to accept his resignation without any benefits attached.

But Rizzo’s attorney, James Spertus, said Thursday that his client never resigned and that the city is violating state labor laws by not paying Rizzo’s salary. Spertus also said the city should begin new negotiations over his departure.

The accusation threatens to create another potentially costly battle for the struggling city, which is operating with the majority of council members facing criminal charges and trying to deal with millions of dollars in revenue losses from taxes the state has determined were illegally levied.

The Bell City Council accepted the resignations of Rizzo as well as Assistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia and Police Chief Randy Adams after a lengthy closed-door meeting July 23. Ever since, considerable mystery has surrounded the terms under which the three officials agreed to leave.

The resignations came after The Times revealed the huge salaries that Rizzo and other top city officials were receiving. Rizzo was set to earn more than $1.5 million in compensation this year, making him one of the highest-paid officials in the nation.

He and seven other city leaders were charged last month with public corruption.

Since he resigned, Rizzo has also requested that the city pay his legal bills.

Jamie Casso, Bell’s acting city attorney, declined to comment on Spertus’ claims, saying the dispute was confidential because it was a personnel matter.

Some community activists said it was outrageous for Rizzo to seek more money from the city and urged city officials to take a hard line.

“This is Rizzo’s way of spiting us,” said Nestor Valencia, a community activist. “The city will now have to get a lawyer and fight him on this. He’s literally just abusing us more.” In an interview Thursday, Spertus said the current city manager has rebuffed his efforts to negotiate the terms of Rizzo’s departure from the city.

Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives