America

Bell, Calif. Gravy Train Derails For 3 City Officials

Hussein Saleh, Eddie Delgado

Bell, Calif. residents Hussein Saleh, left, and Eddie Delgado call for the ouster of city officials during a special meeting of the Bell City Council, Thursday, July 22, 2010. Chris Pizzello/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Chris Pizzello/AP

For three top officials in the little blue-collar city of Bell, Calif. who were getting paid staggering amounts of money for being public servants, the gravy train has apparently derailed.

The city manager, assistant city manager and police chief all agreed to resign after salaries that were completely out of kilter with the city's size and finances were reported by the Los Angeles Times.

According to the LAT, city manager Robert Rizzo made almost $800,000 annually.  Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia made $376,288. Police chief Randy Adams earned $457,000.

The LAT placed these sums in perspective:

Rizzo earns nearly $800,000 a year, believed to make him the highest-paid city manager in California and possibly the nation. Adams makes $457,000 — 50% more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck — and Spaccia makes $376,288, more than the top administrator for Los Angeles County.

In an earlier article, the LAT reported that Bell was one of Los Angeles County's the poorest cities.

Bell made headlines in recent weeks when the city of 37,000 agreed to take over operations of the neighboring city of Maywood, which fired most of its employees and disbanded its police department when it could not obtain insurance.

Located about 10 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, Bell has a population that is about 90% Latino and 53% foreign-born. Its per capita income is about half that for the U.S...

... Experts in city government said they were amazed at the salaries the city pays, particularly Rizzo's. "I have not heard anything close to that number in terms of compensation or salary," said Dave Mora, West Coast regional director of the International City/County Management Assn., and a retired city manager.

By comparison, Manhattan Beach, a far wealthier city with about 7,000 fewer people, paid its most recent city manager $257,484 a year. The city manager of Long Beach, with a population close to 500,000, earns $235,000 annually. Los Angeles County Chief Executive William T Fujioka makes $338,458.

Bell's citizens were understandably outraged by the salaries some of their officials were receiving.

The LAT gives a bit of the color of the Thursday evening council meeting where city officials eventually announced the resignations.

The decision was announced at midnight to a crowd of angry Bell residents that had been waiting anxiously since 4:30 p.m. when the City Council began its meeting. None of the administrators attended the session. The crowd erupted in applause after the announcement but immediately yelled out questions about what would happen to the council members. Four of the five are paid close to $100,000 annually. When residents' questions were not answered, they shouted, "Recall!"

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.