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Bell lets top administrator walk; freshman mayor to run city

July 25, 2011 |  7:55 pm

Getprev Bell’s already uncertain future has taken another sharp turn as its interim city manager left office without a replacement and its freshman mayor took charge of day-to-day affairs Monday.

The city decided to part ways with Pedro Carrillo as he proposed a tough new set of budget cuts aimed at holding off insolvency, including leaving executive positions unfilled, eliminating the three highest-ranking police officers in the city and forcing employees to pay for half of their retirement.

He also warned of dire problems with the city’s mounting bond debt, saying the property tax in the scandal-battered town is not even high enough to pay make payments on $35-million worth of the bonds. And, he said, the city had been using the bond proceeds to pay principal and interest –- a practice that he said may be legally questionable.

Mayor Ali Saleh, a clothing store owner who took office in April along with four other political newcomers, said he didn’t want the responsibility of running the city and hoped his colleagues would appoint an interim administrator by week’s end.

The working-class city has been fighting to stabilize itself since the arrest last year of eight former municipal leaders in a massive public corruption case. Officials were forced to roll back taxes and shoulder enormous legal bills as Bell’s problems deepened. The city now has an estimated deficit of more than $4 million.

The contract for Carrillo, who served as interim chief administrative officer for the last year, expired Friday. Carrillo had sent Saleh a letter last month saying he was not interested in the job permanently but offering to stay on to help the city find a replacement.

But the council at a special meeting Friday night chose to walk away from the offer, even though it left the city in a precarious position and put the day-to-day municipal affairs in the hands of the mayor.

Despite Carrillo’s detailed budget plan, Saleh said the council probably would reject it and start over.

The Times reported earlier this month that Bell had not received any applications for its interim city manager position. Since then, the city has been working with professional government management groups to find applicants and now has received more than 30 applications. 

Download Carrillo's letter to Bell's mayor


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-- Jeff Gottlieb

Photo: Pedro Carrillo, then-interim city administrator of Bell, attempts to answer questions from angry residents during  a City Council meeting in August 2010. Credit: Christina House / For The Times