Archive for the ‘ Bell ’ Category

LATimes: 2013: A great year for scandal, incompetence and corruption

Sheriff Lee Baca

It’s time to salute Sheriff Baca, IBEW executive Brian D’Arcy and L.A. Unified, among others, for contributing to a great news year. Now for the scandals of 2014.

By Steve Lopez
December 28, 2013, 4:00 p.m.

In more ways than one, I’m sorry to see 2013 fade into the books. Thanks to a steady run of incompetence, corruption and bungling by various public officials, it was a banner year for local news in Greater Los Angeles.

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LATimes: Bell corruption: D.A. to seek maximum sentence against Angela Spaccia

Scales of Justice

By Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives
December 9, 2013, 7:28 p.m.

L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said prosecutors will seek the maximum sentence against Angela Spaccia, the former Bell official convicted Monday on 11 counts of misappropriating public funds and other corruption charges.

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LATimes: Bell won’t be able to touch some of Rizzo’s wealth

Corrupt former Bell manager Robert Rizzo may be ordered to pay millions to the city, but his public pension and 401(k) are untouchable.

By Jeff Gottlieb
November 1, 2013, 7:52 p.m.

When Robert Rizzo pleaded no contest to corruption charges last month, many of the trappings of his former life as Bell’s highly paid city manager were gone: the house near the ocean in Huntington Beach, the horse farm outside Seattle, the stable of racehorses.

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LATimes: Bell mayor tricked into signing Rizzo, Spaccia contracts, clerk says

City of Bell

By Jeff Gottlieb
October 31, 2013, 1:46 p.m.

Bell’s former city clerk told jurors that she slipped the lucrative contracts for city administrators Robert Rizzo and Angela Spaccia into stacks of unrelated documents that mayors would typically sign, even though the City Council never approved them.

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LATimes: Huge Bell salaries based on ‘secret formula,’ prosecutor tells jury

City of Bell

The trial was underway Wednesday for Angela Spaccia, the second in command in the Bell corruption scandal.

By Jeff Gottlieb
October 23, 2013, 11:12 a.m.

Angela Spaccia, the former second-in-command in the scandal-plagued city of Bell, went on trial Wednesday in a case that could establish who was the mastermind of the wrongdoing that made the working-poor city a symbol for municipal graft.

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LATimes: Bell corruption trial ended with jury intimidation, attorneys say

L.A. NOW
Southern California — this just in
March 21, 2013 | 7:15 pm

Jury deliberations in the Bell corruption scandal were “very, very tense,” according to a juror who described a day of rancor that the judge in the case said seemed to her like “all hell has broken loose.”

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Dan Walters

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Friday, Mar. 22, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

The conviction of five former officials of the small Southern California city of Bell on corruption charges this week is a victory for governmental integrity.

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LATimes: Five of 6 ex-Bell council members found guilty in corruption trial

scales-of-justice

Jurors deliver mixed verdicts but fully acquit only one of six of the former officials. Many counts are left unresolved.

By Corina Knoll, Ruben Vives and Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
March 20, 2013, 6:26 p.m.

A Los Angeles jury convicted five of six former council members of stealing from the working-class city of Bell in a corruption scandal that became a national synonym for outrageous municipal salaries and rogue governance.

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Question Mark

L.A. NOW
Southern California — this just in
March 20, 2013 | 4:38 pm

Hours after delivering a mixed verdict in the corruption trial of six Bell council members, a Los Angeles jury sent several questions to the judge that ended the day on a chaotic note and raised questions about whether they were unanimous in their verdicts.

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VVDailyPress: Victorville auditor faces $1M fine for Bell work

State taking disciplinary action against Mayer Hoffman McCann
May 25, 2012 3:22 PM
FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

State officials are taking disciplinary action against the accounting firm Victorville has used for years after the firm failed to find problems in audits of the financially troubled city of Bell.

Board of Accountancy spokeswoman Lauren Hersh tells the Los Angeles Times that Mayer Hoffman McCann could be fined up to $1 million for failing to find widespread corruption in Bell and its individual auditors could face discipline, too.

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Rizzo

Wendy Leung, Staff Writer
Created: 09/05/2011 07:03:08 AM PDT

The former Bell city manager, who was once employed in Rancho Cucamonga, will receive drastically reduced pension benefits after the California Public Employees Retirement System slashed the payouts of top-paid officials.

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VVDailyPress: Split Council rehires ‘Bell auditor’

June 08, 2011 10:37 PM
Brooke Edwards
Staff Writer

VICTORVILLE • The City Council voted to rehire Mayer Hoffman McCann, the auditing firm under fire for not catching a slew of financial issues that led to criminal charges for city of Bell officials.

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LATimes: Bell and Vernon cases put focus on pensions of non-elected officials

Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo, accused of illegally boosting his pension, sits in court in March. Rizzo was at the center of a scandal in which it was revealed that he and other Bell officials were being paid many times more than their counterparts in other cities. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / March 9, 2011)

Under the law, elected officials who are convicted of felonies also lose their pensions. That isn’t so with other public employees.
By Hector Becerra, Los Angeles Times
June 1, 2011

When former Vernon City Administrator Bruce Malkenhorst was convicted of misappropriating public funds last week, the gap between two sets of numbers immediately jumped out: The $100,000 in fines and restitution that Malkenhorst was ordered to pay for his crime. And the $500,000 a year state pension that he got after retiring five years ago.

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LATimes: Judge tosses California’s civil suit against ex-Bell leaders

L.A. County Superior Court Judge Ralph W. Dau rules that legislators cannot be sued for passing ordinances that award themselves high salaries. Last year, then-Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown sued to recover funds from Bell officials whose salaries were among the highest in the nation.

By Corina Knoll, Los Angeles Times
May 6, 2011

A sweeping lawsuit against former city leaders in Bell has been tossed out by a Los Angeles County judge who for months has warned that the attorney general’s case seemed flawed and politically inspired.

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LATimes: Judge deals setback to attorney general’s case against Bell officials

L.A. County Judge Ralph W. Dau, in a tentative ruling, said lawmakers cannot be sued for passing ordinances that award them high salaries. The ruling has no effect on the criminal case against current and former city officials.

By Corina Knoll, Los Angeles Times
March 18, 2011

A Los Angeles County judge on Thursday dealt a potentially lethal blow to a far-reaching civil lawsuit the attorney general filed last year as part of an effort to recover money from eight Bell city officials who drew some of the highest municipal salaries in the state.

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L.A. NOW
Southern California — this just in
March 8, 2011 | 11:26 pm

Bell residents voted overwhelmingly to recall four embattled council members Tuesday with 100% of the votes counted in the small southeast Los Angeles County city.

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LATimes: 6 charged in Bell corruption case reject plea deal

By Jeff Gottlieb, Corina Knoll and Christopher Goffard, Los Angeles Times
February 7, 2011, 7:00 p.m.

Lawyers for six current and former Bell leaders said their clients would not accept plea deals that would have sent them to prison for two years and forced them to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars allegedly looted from the city treasury.

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LATimes: Attorney general plans to review state’s Bell lawsuit

Harris

Newly sworn-in Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris says her office will look into the lawsuit filed by her predecessor against eight current and former Bell city officials accused of misappropriating public funds.

By Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times
January 16, 2011

Newly elected state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris said Saturday that reviewing the civil case against current and former city officials of Bell was one of her priorities, but that she had yet to determine how her office would proceed.

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LATimes: Cities reconsider using firm that audited Bell

The state controller called Mayer Hoffman McCann’s examination of the troubled city’s finance a ‘rubber stamp.’ The firm has about 150 municipal clients nationwide.

By Jeff Gottlieb and Jessica Garrison, Los Angeles Times
December 29, 2010

A week after a report by the state controller labeled the independent audits of Bell a “rubber stamp,” several cities are questioning their relationship with the well-known accounting firm responsible for the work.

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CalifoniaWatch: Attorneys: Brown playing politics with Bell case

California Watch
A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting
Money and Politics

November 17, 2010 | Chase Davis

There has been no shortage of political profiteering in recent months over corruption and salary shenanigans down in the now-infamous city of Bell, but a judge’s recent criticism of a civil suit filed by Attorney General Jerry Brown has given ammunition to defense lawyers who have long argued that the case was used to boost Brown’s gubernatorial chances.

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LATimes: Delay on lawsuit shows lack of evidence in Bell case, defense says

Action by Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown proves civil lawsuit was a publicity stunt in governor’s race, attorney for former administrator Robert Rizzo says.

By Corina Knoll, Los Angeles Times
November 15, 2010|6:33 p.m.

A request by the attorney general and the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office to delay a civil suit filed against current and former Bell officials indicates a lack of evidence the city leaders plotted to loot the city treasury, the defendants’ lawyers said Monday.

Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown filed the suit in September, alleging that former City Administrator Robert Rizzo and others conspired to drive up their salaries, inflate their pensions and conceal the cost to taxpayers.

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LATimes: Attorney general’s lawsuit against Bell officials could be in jeopardy

An L.A. County judge says Jerry Brown may have overreached his authority in the case, which seeks to force city leaders to pay back thousands in salaries and take cuts in pensions. Rizzo’s attorney says the case is dead.

By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
November 5, 2010

In a blow to the state’s civil lawsuit charging eight current and former Bell city leaders with plotting to enrich themselves at taxpayer expense, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge warned Thursday that Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown’s case is in jeopardy of being dismissed.

Brown appears to have overreached his authority in the lawsuit, which seeks to force the city leaders to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars in back salaries and slash their future pensions, Judge Ralph W. Dau said.

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SacBee: Whistle-blower alleges Cooley sat on Bell probe

By Jim Sanders
jsanders@sacbee.com
Published: Friday, Oct. 29, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 4A

Running for higher office, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley touts his crackdown on Bell city officials for alleged public corruption, but a whistle-blower says he complained more than a year before prosecutors took action.

Democrat Kamala Harris, Cooley’s opponent for attorney general, accused the Republican on Thursday of dragging his feet in the Bell probe. Her campaign officials pressed the argument by releasing a letter from Cooley’s office and holding a news conference featuring the whistle-blower, James Corcoran, a retired Bell police sergeant.

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VVDailyPress: Local ‘clown’ arrested in Bell for threatening clerk

October 21, 2010 3:54 PM
From Staff Reports

BELL • Local activist E.T. Snell, who regularly dresses as a clown to confront elected officials, has been arrested for allegedly threatening the city clerk of Bell, according to published reports.

Snell, 63 of Apple Valley, is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in a Downey courtroom.

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LATimes: 2 Bell administrators step down, third takes large pay cut

The city’s administrative services director agrees to a 61% pay reduction — to $165,000 a year from $422,707. ‘We’re looking at all high salaries,’ the interim city manager says.

By Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times
October 10, 2010

As officials try to reel in the salaries of the highest paid City Hall workers in Bell, two top city administrators have stepped down and a third has agreed to a 61% pay cut.

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LATimes: Despite vetoes, pension limits are still possible

A budget plan must address pension reform or the governor won’t sign it, an aide says.

By Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times
October 3, 2010

Reporting from Sacramento —

The Legislature’s plans to limit the pay of local government officials in California may be dead for the year, after the governor vetoed a key bill inspired by the scandal in the city of Bell.

But some variation of lawmakers’ proposals to rein in excessive pensions still stands a chance of becoming law this year, even though the governor also rejected those measures.

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VVDailyPress: Victorville’s auditing firm under scrutiny for Bell reports

September 23, 2010 4:57 PM
Brooke Edwards

VICTORVILLE • The same firm that’s handled Victorville’s audits for four of the last five years is now under scrutiny itself for financial reports Mayer Hoffman McCann prepared for the embattled City of Bell, according to officials with the State Controller’s office.

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Southern California — this just in
September 21, 2010 | 8:51 am

A Wall Street rating agency downgraded Bell’s credit ratings Tuesday, saying the city’s financial woes put it at risk of defaulting on an upcoming debt payment, according to Business Wire.

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L.A. NOW
Southern California — this just in
September 21, 2010 | 11:23 am

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley filed charges against eight current and former Bell officials Tuesday, alleging that they misappropriated $5.5 million in public funds. Robert Rizzo, Bell’s former city manager, has been charged with 53 counts of misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest.

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Draft report alleges that $95,000 in city money was put in Robert Rizzo’s retirement accounts to repay loans he had made to himself. An expert says the allegations could amount to federal wire fraud.

By Ruben Vives and Jeff Gottlieb, Los Angeles Times

September 21, 2010

Apparently acting without City Council approval, Bell spent nearly $95,000 to repay loans that then-City Manager Robert Rizzo made to himself from his retirement accounts, a draft state audit reviewed by The Times shows.

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LATimes: California prosecutors accuse Bell leaders of plotting to enrich themselves

The attorney general’s office files a lawsuit aimed at limiting officials’ pensions, forcing them to refund hundreds of thousands of dollars in back salaries and ousting three City Council members.

Attorney General Jerry Brown holds a press conference in Los Angeles to announce that he is filing suit against eight top officials in the City of Bell. It is the first legal action related to the city’s salary scandal. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / September 15, 2010)

By Jeff Gottlieb, Ruben Vives and Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times

September 16, 2010

State prosecutors accused Bell leaders of secretly plotting to enrich themselves and conceal their lucrative compensation, filing a suit Wednesday aimed at limiting the officials’ pensions, forcing them to refund hundreds of thousands of dollars in back salaries and removing three City Council members from office.

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InlandPolitics: Falling in polls, Brown rings the “Bell” again

Los Angeles Times
L.A. NOW
Southern California — this just in
Jerry Brown to announce ‘major development’ in Bell investigation
September 14, 2010 | 7:58 pm

State Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown has called a news conference Wednesday to announce legal action in the state’s ongoing investigation into lucrative salaries and questionable business dealings in the city of Bell.

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LATimes: Rizzo obscured true salary

Ex-Bell official said his pay was lower than it was. Some experts say his actions could invalidate his contracts and require that he repay money he earned.

By Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times

September 15, 2010

Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo went to considerable lengths to keep his huge salary secret, including actions that could invalidate his contracts and potentially require him to repay money he received, some experts believe.

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Residents of the working-class city had paid an illegal tax the last three years to cover rising pension costs.

By Jeff Gottlieb, Los Angeles Times

September 14, 2010

Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado on Monday signed into law a bill that will refund $2.9 million to Bell property owners who paid an illegal tax the last three years to cover rising pension costs.

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LATimes: In wake of Bell scandal, CalPERS may change pension calculation rules

By Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times

September 4, 2010

California pension officials are investigating the pay received by former top officials of Bell with an eye toward excluding large chunks of their salaries from retirement calculations.

A ruling against former City Manager Robert Rizzo and his colleagues could affect other officials across California who receive salaries from several government agencies simultaneously.

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LATimes: California legislators OK pay reforms inspired by Bell scandal

By Patrick McGreevy and Jack Dolan, Los Angeles Times

September 1, 2010

Reporting from Sacramento —
California lawmakers passed wide-ranging public compensation reforms inspired by the Bell municipal salary scandal in the waning hours of the 2010 legislative session, but a closely watched, first-in-the-nation ban on plastic grocery bags was defeated Tuesday night.

That measure, AB 1998, passed the Assembly in June and had the support of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but faced a withering and well-financed advertising and lobbying campaign from the plastic bag manufacturing industry.

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LATimes: Rizzo’s horse had come in

Some who worked with him in Bell and elsewhere over the years came to know him as a calculating risk-taker.

By Paul Pringle, Corina Knoll and Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times

August 22, 2010

Reporting from Los Angeles and Auburn, Wash. —

The lifestyle that Robert Rizzo enjoyed during his run as Bell city manager included a stable full of thoroughbreds, among them a gelding named Depenserdel’argent — French for “spend money.”

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SacBee: Bell scandal sparks six-bill package targeting excessive pay

Capitol Alert
The latest on California politics and government
August 19, 2010

California lawmakers unveiled a six-bill package of legislation today in response to a scandal involving sky-high salaries paid to council members and top officials in the tiny city of Bell in Los Angeles County.

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LATimes: LA lawmaker to introduce bill for Bell residents

PolitiCal
On politics in the Golden State
August 18, 2010 | 8:15 am

A Los Angeles Assemblyman will introduce a bill Tuesday that would enable residents of Bell to receive $2.9 million in rebates from overpaid property taxes.

Assemblyman Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) will unveil the legislation at a press conference in Sacramento Tuesday morning. The measure is also backed by state controller John Chiang.

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Former assistant city manager received at least $200,000. Experts say such a city loan program for employees is unusual.

By Jeff Gottlieb, Kimi Yoshino and Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times
August 18, 2010

The city of Bell gave nearly $900,000 in loans to former City Administrator Robert Rizzo, city employees and at least two council members in the last several years, according to records reviewed by The Times.

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DailyBulletin: Officials keep District Attorney busy

Cooley

Corruption team has many cases
Bethania Palma Markus, Staff Writer
Created: 08/16/2010 04:02:35 PM PDT

The tiny city of Bell made national headlines after it was discovered officials had helped themselves to grossly inflated salaries, shining the spotlight on corruption in Los Angeles County.

More than a year before the Bell headlines broke, attorneys and investigators from the Public Integrity Division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office had been probing complaints of wrongdoing in the small municipality.

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By Ruben Vives and Jeff Gottlieb, Los Angeles Times
August 17, 2010

Confronting a hostile crowd, the Bell City Council met Monday night on whether to roll back property taxes, turn over administration of city elections to Los Angeles County and cut the cost of obtaining public records — the latest potential concessions by leaders of the small, working-class town in the wake of a salary scandal.

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PE: Inland elected officials’ salaries examined

10:52 PM PDT on Sunday, August 15, 2010

By JOHN F. HILL and JEFF HORSEMAN
The Press-Enterprise

Council members in 17 “general law” cities in western Riverside and San Bernardino counties earn less than half the pay of their counterparts in charter cities, a review of public records has found.

City managers in these Inland cities also make less, though the gap is smaller.

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Of 25 charter cities in Los Angeles County, fewer than half paid their council members more than $20,000 a year. Meanwhile, Inglewood was paying $61,884; Vernon, $68,052; and Bell, nearly $100,000.

By Sam Allen and Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times

August 15, 2010

City council members in Vernon, Compton and Inglewood receive significantly higher compensation than most of their counterparts in Los Angeles County, according to a Los Angeles Times review of salary figures.

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SFChronicle: Candidates jump on Bell outrage bandwagon

Carla Marinucci, Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Political Writers
San Francisco Chronicle
Saturday, August 14, 2010

Robert Rizzo has been dubbed the “Willie Horton” of overpaid public employees for his $1.5 million-a-year salary and benefit package to run the small Los Angeles County town of Bell. Now political campaigns are trying to cash in on the ensuing public outrage.

State Attorney General Jerry Brown, the Democratic candidate for governor, has announced a joint investigation with Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, a Republican candidate for attorney general. They’re looking into possible civil and criminal violations among Rizzo’s team of well-paid cohorts in Bell, where the police chief earned $457,000 a year – more than the president of the United States.

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By Kim Christensen, Ruben Vives and Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times

August 14, 2010

The city of Bell illegally raised its property taxes in 2007 and must immediately give up $2.9 million it has collected since then, state Controller John Chiang said Friday.

Chiang ordered Bell to immediately reduce the “retirement tax” rate, which its City Council increased in 2007 to cover rising pension costs for its employees. The reductions will apply to the next round of property taxes due in November, said Jacob Roper, a spokesman for Chiang.

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SacBee: Dan Walters: Southern California’s decay goes way beyond Bell

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com The Sacramento Bee
Published: Friday, Aug. 13, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

The Los Angeles Times has been all over the scandal in Bell, one of dozens of small cities in the shadow of Los Angeles itself.

Two Times reporters, hearing that the county district attorney was looking into abnormally high salaries of Bell city officials, ferreted out documents that proved the allegations, including a nearly $800,000 salary being paid to the city manager.

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Brown

Thursday, August 12, 1010 – 10:00 am

Well what do you know.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced yesterday that his office is teaming up with Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley’s office in investigating the salary and pension scandal in the City of Bell.

Truly an epiphany on Brown’s part.

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By Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times
August 12, 2010

Reporting from Sacramento —

Cities that provide officials with excessive pay would be subject to significant financial penalties, including a 50% income tax on city council members, under a proposal considered by state lawmakers Wednesday in response to the salary scandal in Bell.

The legislation would also require employee compensation and contracts with managers to be approved in open session at least seven days after the details were posted for the public on a city website. Those details would include such extras as bonuses and special vacation, insurance and pension benefits.

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LATimes: East of Bell, another reason to monitor city hall

The desert town of Indio learned a painful lesson from its now-retired city manager.

BySteve Lopez
August 11, 2010

I was never particularly good at math, but as I looked through the contract of former Indio City Manager Glenn Southard, I knew his $300,000-plus salary was not the best part of his deal.

Southard didn’t start at that salary. He was hired in 2005 for $240,000 after a long stretch working for the city of Claremont. But raises seem to come more quickly for some city executives than for the rest of us, even as local services and workforces are being whacked. In 2007, Southard negotiated a new contract for $300,000, plus a nice little bonus.

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LATimes: Bell credit rating downgraded amid concerns over debts [Updated]

L.A. NOW
Southern California — this just in

August 10, 2010 | 10:59 am

The city of Bell’s inability to pay off a looming $35-million debt has prompted Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services to downgrade the beleaguered town’s bonds and place the ratings on “CreditWatch with negative implications.”

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LATimes: Whitman accuses Brown of Bell-style mismanagement

The Republican’s new mailer and radio ad seek to undermine the attorney general’s watchdog role by accusing him of overseeing large salary increases while he was mayor of Oakland.

By Michael Mishak, Los Angeles Times
August 9, 2010

Reporting from Sacramento —

Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman on Monday accused Democratic rival Jerry Brown of presiding over a Bell-style salary scandal while he was mayor of Oakland.

The charges, aired in a new mailer and radio ad aimed at Los Angeles County voters, come as Brown, the attorney general, gains political traction with his office’s expanded investigation into the Bell controversy. Three of that city’s top administrators have resigned.

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InlandPolitics: Entering another press lull, Brown rings the Bell again

Brown

Monday, August 9, 2010 – 9:50 am

Stop the presses!

The Office of the Democratic Candidate for Governor has scheduled a press conference for this morning in Los Angeles.

I’m sorry. I meant Office of the Attorney General.

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SDUnionTrib: City manager benefits can add 68% over base pay

By Jeff McDonald, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
Saturday, August 7, 2010 at 10:42 p.m.

Paul C. Malone launched his career in San Marcos government as a planner in 1981, when the North County city was still a teenager. He earned his way to city manager and is now paid almost $5,000 a week in base pay.

But his overall compensation stretches far beyond the $242,652 the city reports as his annual salary.

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Sandra Emerson, Staff Writer
Created: 08/06/2010 05:52:11 PM PDT

RANCHO CUCAMONGA – The city of Rancho Cucamonga’s pension fund could be on the hook for more than $125,000 when Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo begins drawing his pension.

Rizzo recently resigned from his position after news of his nearly $800,000 salary outraged Bell residents.

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LATimes: Bell faces $35-million bond debt

Voter approval was not needed for the obligation, which is more than twice the size of the city’s budget.

By Scott Gold and Kim Christensen, Los Angeles Times
August 7, 2010

The small and cash-strapped city of Bell is on the hook for a $35-million bond debt that voters didn’t approve — and that the city can’t afford to pay off, The Times has learned.

The debt, which Bell took on three years ago to buy land near the 710 Freeway, is more than twice the size of Bell’s annual operating budget. Come November, the city could lose the land to foreclosure. The city’s hope to profit from the purchase fell apart in 2008 after city officials failed to conduct basic environmental reviews.

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LATimes: Bell admits more hefty city salaries

Several other administrators get six-figure paychecks, and two were given extra payments.

By Jeff Gottlieb, Hector Becerra and Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times

August 7, 2010

The city of Bell, already under fire for paying unusually high salaries to three top administrators, acknowledged Friday that two more officials were earning over $400,000.

The city’s director of administrative services, Lourdes Garcia, was earning $422,707, and the director of general services, Eric Eggena, earned $421,402, officials said. Those amounts include salary, deferred compensation and some benefits, which city officials did not fully detail.

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RivPE: Former BB & K Attorney Lee won’t serve Bell

10:00 PM PDT on Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Bell City Council has opted not to hire the attorney who approved huge salaries for the city’s leaders.

Edward Lee, who parted company Monday with Riverside-based law firm Best Best & Krieger, had said he made the move in part to stay with Bell and work with its officials through the salary crisis.

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LATimes: Bell salaries raise more concerns about CalPERS

The state’s embattled pension system did not act four years ago when it learned about the city’s runaway salaries. The state attorney general and auditors express shock that nothing was done.

By Evan Halper and Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times
August 6, 2010

Reporting from Sacramento —

The failure of the state’s embattled pension system to take action after learning four years ago of Bell city officials’ runaway salaries has put the fund under another unwelcome spotlight.

The state attorney general says he is shocked that nobody at the fund alerted law enforcement. Professional auditors are perplexed by the lack of follow-up that even board members at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System are at a loss to explain.

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LATimes: Voters in Bell tell of possible fraud

L.A. NOW
Southern California — this just in
August 5, 2010 | 5:55 pm

As Los Angeles prosecutors investigate potential voter fraud in Bell, several residents have told The Times that city officials pressed them to fill out absentee ballots in a way that election experts say may have violated state law.

Four voters said city officials walked door-to-door encouraging them to fill out absentee ballots. In one case, a woman said she signed papers she believed were election paperwork. She never filed an absentee ballot. But when she went to the polls on election day, records showed that she had voted absentee.

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RivPE: Cassie MacDuff: Going Public With City Pay

10:00 PM PDT on Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cassie MacDuff

Even before state Controller John Chiang announced he’ll post city and county officials’ pay online beginning in November, two Inland cities already had decided to go public with official pay and perks.

Fontana posted top officials’ and council members’ compensation last week, shortly after Councilwoman Janice Rutherford suggested it and the rest of the council agreed.

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AV, Barstow, MWA shoulder portion too
August 04, 2010 5:42 PM
Brooke Edwards

HESPERIA • Robert Rizzo worked for Hesperia for just four years nearly two decades ago. But now that he was forced to resign as city manager for Bell amid a scandal over his massive salary, Hesperia is on the hook for roughly $80,000 of Rizzo’s expected $600,000 annual pension, according to Daily Press estimates.

Rancho Cucamonga will pay an estimated $160,000 annually for the eight years Rizzo served there before coming to Hesperia.

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The City Council decides against appointing Edward Lee to the post and instead picks James M. Casso with the Meyers Nave firm.

By Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times

August 5, 2010

The Bell City Council decided Wednesday night not to appoint as its interim city attorney the lawyer who signed off on lavish salaries for the city’s top administrators.

The decision came after angry Bell residents, chanting “Out, out” in Spanish at City Hall, delivered recall notices to four council members in a packed council chamber.

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SacBee: Brown compares budget process to Bell pay scandal

Capitol Alert
The latest on California politics and government
August 4, 2010

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown called for more transparency in the budget process today, saying the “latest scheme” released by legislative Democrats has “got to be vetted in the public.”

Brown, in an interview during Los Angeles television station KTLA’s morning news program, compared the current budget process to the pay scandal rocking the city of Bell, Calif., which he had discussed earlier in the segment.

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L.A. NOW
Southern California — this just in

August 3, 2010 | 6:39 pm

Officials at California’s state pension fund became aware four years ago of the exorbitant pay raises being given to administrators in the city of Bell and did nothing to stop them, according to an internal memo obtained by The Times.

The memo, which pension staff sent to board members today, shows that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System granted an exemption to its rules in 2006 so the Bell city manager could get a 47% pay hike and still receive a full pension on his salary.

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L.A. NOW
Southern California — this just in

August 3, 2010 | 12:58 pm

In the continuing fallout from the Bell salary scandal, State Controller John Chiang announced Tuesday that he would overhaul city financial reporting requirements to require that salary information for elected officials and other employees be clearly stated. The information would be posted on his office’s website beginning in November, he said.

The action comes as a Times analysis found that Bell’s reports to the state in recent years have shown that costs for its legislative activities, including City Council salaries, declined sharply since 2005, at a time when overall council compensation rose to nearly $100,000 for part-time work.

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RivPE: Dan Bernstein: Best Best Behavior

10:00 PM PDT on Sunday, August 1, 2010

DAN BERNSTEIN

Mario Guerra turned on the TV in his San Francisco hotel room and saw “my city attorney trying to calm the crowd. I took exception to that.”

The Downey councilman had seen Edward Lee, who was “his” city attorney and city attorney of Bell, the SoCal town that has given “going green” a bad name. Guerra concluded Lee and his law firm — Riverside-based Best Best & Krieger — should no longer represent Downey.

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SBSun: Fontana posts officials’ salaries online

Josh Dulaney, Staff Writer
Posted: 08/02/2010 02:33:02 PM PDT

FONTANA – The city has posted online the pay of its top positions in an effort to have a more open government and to avoid the type of fallout that occurred when leaders in Bell drew fat salaries out of the public coffers.

“I think their motivation is they want to be transparent,” City Manager Ken Hunt said Monday.

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DailyBulletin: Local city managers disgusted over Bell pay

Neil Nisperos, Staff Writer
Created: 08/02/2010 12:56:45 PM PDT

As residents of Bell recover from learning that their former city manager had an $800,000 salary, many Inland Valley residents may be wondering what type of paychecks their own city managers are taking home.

According to a fellow at the Rose Institute at Claremont McKenna College, the salary figures for city managers in this region should be considered normal.

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LATimes: Bell withholds public records

By Ruben Vives and Hector Becerra, Los Angeles Times

August 3, 2010

Despite vowing greater transparency in the wake of a salary scandal, the city of Bell is refusing to turn over public records to The Times, community activists and even a sitting councilman.

“They continue to keep us in the dark,” said Councilman Lorenzo Velez, who has been critical of the high salaries paid to top Bell administrators and other City Council members. “The problem is a continuation of so many years of doing whatever they wanted in City Hall.”

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Lee

August 02, 2010|By Kimi Yoshino,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Bell’s controversial city attorney — who was dumped last week by the city of Downey for his connection to the scandal-ridden town — announced Monday that he is leaving his firm to focus on helping Bell through its crisis.

Edward Lee had been a partner at Best, Best & Krieger since 2006 and Bell’s contract city attorney since the 1990s. The firm issued a statement Monday saying that Lee would be leaving Best, Best & Krieger. The firm also announced that it would be ending its contract with Bell, but would assist in the transition.

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RivPE: Inland charter cities offer similar pay to managers, council

11:09 PM PDT on Sunday, August 1, 2010

By DUANE W. GANG and DUG BEGLEY
The Press-Enterprise

City managers and council members in the Inland region earn far less than their counterparts in Bell, a city that sparked a statewide outcry in recent weeks over excessive salaries.

A review of the 14 charter cities in Riverside and San Bernardino counties shows most city managers earning in the mid-$200,000 range and council members making less than $45,000 a year.

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Under the state’s arcane, convoluted public pension system, Bell will pay a fraction of the city manager and police chief’s pensions. Former employers and other cities will bear the brunt of the cost.

August 01, 2010|By Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times

The unfolding story of the high salaries paid to municipal officials in Bell has delivered a surprise twist to taxpayers in Glendale, Simi Valley, Ventura and several other Southern California cities — they’re on the hook for the pension bills.

More than half of former city manager Robert Rizzo’s $600,000-a-year pension will be spread among 140 small cities and special districts such as Norco, La Cañada Flintridge and Goleta that are in the same pension liability pool as Bell.

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California Watch
A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting
Money and Politics

California WatchBlog

August 2, 2010 | Lance Williams

Rage. Protests. Investigations. Resignations. Cries for reform.

“Firestorm” is an overused word in the context of public response to scandal, but it describes the reaction to the Los Angeles Times’ report on how officials of the city of Bell, in Los Angeles County, population 37,000, became perhaps the highest-paid public officials in the nation.

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The seeds of the state pension fiasco were sown in 1999, when Gov. Gray Davis and lawmakers raised retirement benefits for state workers, and many cities and counties followed suit.

BySteve Lopez

August 1, 2010

Marcia Fritz remembers it distinctly: She had a chilled glass of Handley chardonnay in her hand and was chatting with friends on the shores of Lake Tahoe in August of 2002. She was totally relaxed until one of her pals brought up an official in her mid-size city who was retiring. His pension was to be based on a 3-50 formula.

Fritz, a certified public accountant, nearly choked.

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LATimes: Bell’s business ties to officials probed

L.A. County D.A. examines the city’s $4.6-million purchase tied to a former politician.

By Hector Becerra and Paul Pringle, Los Angeles Times

July 31, 2010

The city of Bell has a pattern of doing business with current and former city officials, including an ex-mayor who served time in federal prison, according to interviews and records obtained by The Times.

In the most recent deal, Bell’s Community Redevelopment Agency last year paid $4.6 million to purchase property from a family trust of longtime politician Peter Werrlein, who was sentenced to three years in prison in the 1980s for holding hidden interests in a poker casino.

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LATimes: Bell official also quits Maywood post

Angela Spaccia resigns from both jobs because of the municipal salary inquiry. She had been on loan to Maywood for five months.

By Abby Sewell and Jeff Gottlieb, Los Angeles Times

July 31, 2010

Bell’s former assistant city manager resigned her post Friday as the interim administrator of neighboring Maywood, another casualty of the salary scandal in Bell.

For Angela Spaccia, it marked the second time in two weeks she has resigned over the salary issue.

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OCRegister: Editorial: Brown hears the free publicity bell

Published: July 29, 2010
Updated: 5:00 p.m.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

In his capacity as California attorney general, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown announced Monday that his office had subpoenaed salary, employment and contract records from the city of Bell, which had been paying its city manager a $787,637 annual salary and all but one City Council member nearly $100,000 a year for part time duties. Mr. Brown’s move, while a good use of his bully pulpit to decry the activities in Bell, appears to be more a politically motivated maneuver than one with any real basis for legal recourse.

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L.A. NOW
Southern California — this just in

July 29, 2010 | 7:04 pm

Bell’s city attorney, Edward Lee, who served as legal counsel when the City Council approved lavish compensation packages for top administrators, was removed Thursday as city attorney for the neighboring city of Downey.

Lee, a partner with the firm Best, Best & Krieger, also serves as city attorney for several other municipalities. Until Thursday, that included Downey. But officials there were not happy that their lawyer was involved in what Downey Councilman Mario Guerra called one of the “most egregious breaches of fiduciary responsibilities in the history of our state.”

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By Ryan Lillis
rlillis@sacbee.com
Published: Friday, Jul. 30, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Friday, Jul. 30, 2010 – 7:41 am

City administrators from around the state scrambled Thursday to get ahead of the unfolding salary scandal in the Los Angeles suburb of Bell.

The League of California Cities took the unusual step of lambasting one of its own and said it would explore state legislation requiring that the salaries of the highest-paid employees in state and local government be made easily available to the public.

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InlandPolitics: Where did he go? Brown swallows microphone

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and attorney general Jerry Brown evaporated from the air waves yesterday after Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley arrived on the scene to set the record straight regarding his office’s investigation into the City of Bell salary and pension scandal.

Brown has went quiet on the Bell episode in the the media circuit since Cooley gave interviews to newspaper and radio stations starting Monday.

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City managers will gather in Sacramento on Thursday to discuss damage control. Some say more residents are seeking salary information from city halls. The Legislature considers reforms as well.

By Sam Allen, Abby Sewell and Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times

July 29, 2010

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.

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Wendy Leung, Staff Writer
Created: 07/28/2010 10:28:23 PM PDT

RANCHO CUCAMONGA – The former city manager of Bell, who stepped down last week after news reports unveiled his unusually high salary of more than $787,000, got his start in Rancho Cucamonga, where he rose through the ranks in eight years to become assistant city manager.

Robert Rizzo, 56, possibly the highest-paid city manager in the nation, was hired by Rancho Cucamonga as an administrative aide in 1980 and later became an administrative analyst and an assistant to the city manager before becoming an assistant city manager.

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L.A. NOW
Southern California — this just in

July 28, 2010 | 5:31 pm

Three highly paid administrators in Bell will not be permitted to draw their state pensions until the attorney general determines whether the city broke the law in awarding the hefty paychecks, according to an official with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

“CalPERS is concerned about the situation, and our intention is to not [to] entertain applications for pensions from any of these people until the investigation is complete,” said Pat Macht, the agency’s external affairs director.

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InlandPolitics: Oops! LA County District Attorney investigating Bell since March

Yes, Attorney General Jerry Brown repeatedly claims he’s all over the City of Bell salary scandal.

Brown’s office has subpoenaed thousands of city records. He’s giving city officials twenty-four hours to turn them over.

Otherwise one can infer search warrants will be the order of the day.

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