Bell's interim administrator survives termination effort, leaving residents confused, angered
The administrator who has been leading the embattled city of Bell since a salary scandal this summer survived an effort Wednesday to oust him from City Hall, disappointing residents who for weeks have pushed for his firing.
Lorenzo Velez, the only council member not charged in a sweeping public corruption case, called for Pedro Carrillo's firing. Velez said Carrillo was too closely linked to the city’s old administrator, Robert Rizzo.
But after an hourslong closed-door session, the council did not take a vote on whether to oust Carrillo, leaving him in charge of the city. Council members later said they'd met to evaluate Carrillo's performance as the town's administrator.
Valez declined to comment and the more than 100 residents who had shown up for the meeting left confused and angered.
Carrillo confirmed he had survived the ouster attempt.
“I am and remain the interim CAO of the City of bell.” Carrillo said. “It’s unfortunate. The theatrics here are unfortunate.”
Had Carrillo been dismissed, it would have pushed the city into an uncertain future and put –- if only temporarily -– the city’s leadership into Mayor Oscar Hernandez's hands. Hernandez is facing public corruption charges and has largely vanished from the public scene since he was arrested along with other council members and former city leaders, including Rizzo.
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.
Before going into closed session, Velez distributed a package containing four candidates who could replace Carrillo. The candidates included 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.
For weeks, residents called for Carrillo's ouster, prompting the administrator to draft a 77-page report on his accomplishments during his 100 days in office.
“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 was unsure 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