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.

Rancho Cucamonga City Manager Jack Lam, who was not in his current post during Rizzo’s tenure with the city, said Rizzo was assistant city manager for about two years and earned a salary in the $56,000 to $69,000 range.

Lam called Rizzo and other Bell leaders’ actions “unconscionable.”

“These handful of folks are folks who are supposed to show ethical leadership,” Lam said. “This makes the whole system of government look bad.”

Residents of Bell, a small working-class city in Los Angeles County, were infuriated after learning Rizzo, council members and other city leaders were earning many times more than officials from much larger cities. With a contract that stipulated an automatic 12 percent increase, Rizzo was earning almost twice the salary of President Barack Obama.

Rizzo stepped down Friday, and residents are calling on four of the five members of the City Council to resign.

The state attorney general and controller, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office are all investigating Bell’s finances and practices.

Rizzo resigned from Rancho Cucamonga in 1988 and became Hesperia’s city manager.

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