Bell councilman proposes candidates for new city administrator
More than 100 residents showed up for an early morning special session of the Bell City Council on Wednesday, urging council members to fire interim city administrator Pedro Carrillo, who has been leading the embattled city since a salary scandal this summer.
Many of them questioned Carrillo’s association with former city administrator Robert Rizzo, who resigned in July after revelations that he was earning $787,000 annually. Rizzo, his assistant city administrator Angela Spaccia, and six current and former City Council members were all arrested and are facing public corruption charges.
Rizzo's inflated salary led to scrutiny of the city southeast of Los Angeles. Bell has since been rocked by scandal after scandal including charges that city officials imposed illegal taxes on residents, helped themselves to huge salaries and loaned hundreds of thousands of dollars to City Hall staffers.
During Wednesday’s closed-session meeting, council members plan to review Carrillo’s short stint as Bell’s administrator. Lorenzo Velez, the only council member not charged in the sweeping corruption case, has pushed for Carrillo’s dismissal.
Before going into closed session, Velez distributed a package containing four candidates who could replace Carrillo if he is fired. The candidates include Michael Busch, with the consulting firm Urban Futures; Henry Garcia, city administrator of Rialto; Sam Racadio, former interim city manager of Redlands; and Rick Paikoff, director of administrative services in Irvine. It was unclear how Velez compiled the list.
If Carrillo is dismissed, the city’s mayor, Oscar Hernandez, would be next in line to oversee the city’s day-to-day operations, according to the city’s charter. But that would pose its own set of problems: Hernandez has been charged with felony misappropriation of funds and is being sued by state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown.
"I want him out despite what’s going to happen with the city," said Bell resident Marcelino Ceja. Ceja said he is troubled by the fact that Carrillo’s company, Urban Associates, had been on the city’s payroll when Rizzo was in charge.
Although Carrillo had been forthcoming about payment to his company, Ceja said he still wasn’t comfortable with the connection even though he acknowledged that the interim city administrator has been doing a good job.
When he took over, Carrillo requested assistance from State Controller John Chiang. Audits conducted by Chiang's office led to rollbacks in property tax rates and a reduction of business fees. He also cut high salaries of some city administrators and made public the salaries of all city employees.
Lorenzo Martinez, a longtime resident, said he is unsure about whether Carrillo should be ousted.
"We want him out, but we have a lot issues in the city," Martinez said. "Where is the city going to be? Are we going to benefit from it, or is it going to hurt us?"
-- Ruben Vives in Bell