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Steve Lopez: Was I too hard on Robert Rizzo? No way

January 13, 2011 |  1:16 pm

Robert Rizzo

To critics who say I was too harsh or unfair for attempting to interview Robert Rizzo, the reviled former Bell city official who is now guarding a parking lot in Huntington Beach, I've carefully considered the criticism and have two things to say.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4150cbe970b-piFirst, I have no regrets. Second, I'm not sorry. I thought it was worth asking Rizzo if he had any regrets or would like to apologize for the fiasco in Bell.

He has been essentially unresponsive and unavailable since the story broke, and I thought it was worth trying to get him to talk when I had a rare chance.

He is charged with more than 50 felonies and is accused, along with cohorts, of misappropriating millions of dollars in a poor community, while concealing the fact that his annual compensation was in the $1.5-million neighborhood.

Citizens paid astronomical taxes during this period, and among the money allegedly raided was a low-income housing fund. In the grand tradition of bellying up to the public trough, Rizzo stands charged as a champion, a high achiever and a Hall of Famer, make no mistake.

As he awaits trial, the city of Bell suffers the devastating effects of years of deception and mismanagement, and it may take many more years for fiscal order to be restored. If you'd like to read a columnist who would pass on the opportunity to ask the man about his alleged deeds, and yes, to put his feet to the fire, you should immediately find another columnist.

I'd also like to say that despite one reader's claim that Latinos like me should be kicked out of the country, I'm actually thinking of staying, at least until I see what happens at Rizzo's trial.

-- Steve Lopez

Photo: Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo has a new gig as a parking lot attendant in Huntington Beach. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times