Brown Subpoenas City of Bell for Records Related to Excessive Public Official Salaries

Monday, July 26, 2010
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LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today subpoenaed hundreds of employment, salary, and contract records from the City of Bell and its top officials as part of an investigation to determine whether civil or criminal action should be taken against city leaders whose secretive salaries in one case rose to almost $800,000 a year.

Brown told a news conference at his downtown Los Angeles state office today that he was making public the issuance of the subpoenas both to assure the residents of Bell and the people of California that state government is taking fast, effective action to crack down on any possible wrongdoing, and also to warn officials in other California cities that no public officials will be allowed to carry out similar schemes.

“These outrageous pay practices are an insult to the hard-working people of Bell and have provoked righteous indignation in California and even across the country,” Brown said. “I’m determined to get to the bottom of these exorbitant payouts and protect the state’s pension system against such abuses; today’s subpoenas are an important step in that process.”

Brown gave city officials an expedited schedule to turn over documents to state investigators, demanding within 48 hours production of the critically important employment contracts.

Brown said his department's investigation is looking at all possible violations of law by Bell officials, including civil and criminal sanctions. Brown launched his state probe after The Los Angeles Times revealed the $787,637 salary of City Manager Robert Rizzo and found that the Bell police chief was making 50 percent more than the police chief of Los Angeles.

The newspaper reported that Rizzo’s salary made him possibly the highest-paid city manager in the country. Police Chief Randy Adams was paid $457,000 a year, and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia was paid $376,288. The three resigned on Friday.

Four Bell city council members, including the mayor, are paid nearly $100,000 for their part-time jobs. In 2005, a state law limited salaries for city council members in general law cities. The newspaper reported that in the same year, Bell engineered a special election to convert to a charter city, the only item on the ballot that year. Since then, council members’ salaries have increased dramatically.

Bell, in southeast Los Angeles County, according to the 2000 census, has a population of 36,624 that includes a high percentage of low-income residents. Hundreds of citizens marched through city streets yesterday to demand the resignation of the mayor and other council members.

Brown’s probe will examine whether any illegality, self-dealing, or other improper activity occurred in Bell, and whether any changes in California law are necessary to prevent similar abuses in the future.

“We will conduct a prompt and thorough investigation into how these unprecedented salaries were awarded to public servants,” Brown said.

Brown said his office will also review salaries in other local jurisdictions around the state to determine whether similar abuses might be occurring.

The overall investigation is being conducted jointly with CalPERS, the state public employee pension fund, which has responsibility for administering the state pension system.

Brown's subpoena is attached.

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