The Los Angeles Times reporters who uncovered the colossal salaries paid top administrators and city councilmembers in the small city of Bell [previously] must be smiling a lot these days.
Not only did the raise enough community ire to force the resignations of City Manager Robert Rizzo [salary $787,637], Police Chief Randy Adams [$457,000], and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia [$376,288], but the city councilmembers also voted to cut back their own salaries, which averaged bearly $100,000 — insane for a city of fewer than 40,000 residents.
Now it seems their stories have also prompted action of by the state legislature and officials in other cities to prevent further salary looting of the municipal purses of all California cities.
The Times reports:
The scandal over high salaries paid to Bell officials has city leaders throughout the state scrambling to limit the political damage.
City halls have seen an uptick in residents calling to find out what their local officials make ever since the story broke two weeks ago and prompted widespread public outrage.
[Today] city managers from across the state will gather in Sacramento to discuss damage control. Among the ideas on the table: launching an independent examination of city officials’ salaries and compiling a database of salaries for municipal executives.
The Legislature also is mulling several Bell-inspired proposals, including a requirement that cities make salaries easily accessible on websites. Another suggestion would cap pensions of highly paid city officials, an issue that arose after The Times reported that former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo, who earned nearly $800,000 a year, would receive roughly $600,000 a year in pension benefits once he retired.
The flap has also triggered an investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office:
Los Angeles County prosecutors have launched a wide-ranging investigation into allegations of voter fraud and conflicts of interest involving municipal business in Bell, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said Tuesday.
Until now, prosecutors had said only that they were looking at the $100,000 annual salaries paid to four of the five Bell City Council members and were seeking to determine if the payments were larger than allowed under state law. The voting fraud claims and allegations of possible conflicts of interest in city business add significant new issues about how government operated in the small working-class city where top city officials were among the nation’s highest paid.
Cooley also said investigators were looking at whether council
members had received pay for meetings they did not attend or meetings that lasted only a few minutes. Most of the pay that Bell council members received came not from their City Council salaries, but as stipends for serving on the boards of city panels. . .
Finally, the three administrators who resigned their jobs after the story broke won’t be getting their obscene pensions until the state pension fund determines if their salaries were illegally awarded.
“CalPERS is concerned about the situation and our intention is to not entertain applications for pensions from any of these people until the investigation is complete,” said Pat Macht, external affairs director for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.
In retirement, Rizzo would become the highest-paid retiree in CalPERS, the state’s massive pension system. He would earn more than $600,000 a year for the rest of his life, according to calculations made by The Times and reviewed by pension experts.
Adams, who would receive an estimated $411,000, would be the third-highest-paid.
A second probe, by California Attorney General Jerry Brown, has already resulted in subpoenas.
Finally, allegations of possible election fraud have also surfaced:
A retired Bell police sergeant claimed in a lawsuit filed this week that off-duty Bell police officers in the 2009 election distributed absentee ballots to voters and told them which candidates to select.
The allegations are contained in a lawsuit filed by James Corcoran, who says he was forced out of his job for informing authorities about the officers’ actions as well as for a variety of other actions that he says top city leaders did not like.
According to the lawsuit, Corcoran in 2009 reported to the California secretary of state’s chief investigator and the FBI “that off-duty police officers were taking absentee ballots and providing them to voters to fill out.”
Wonderful to see the press doing what it’s supposed to do. Let’s hope that’s one Bell that stays rung. After all, can’t have our civil servants acting like investment bankers and defense contractors, can we?