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POINT OF LAW: Bell City's Salaries May be Criminal

  • By G.Monty Manibog

The relatively poor City of Bell in south Los Angeles county (population 40,000) has been supporting the lavish lifestyles of their city officials for a number of years, largely unbeknownst to its residents until the Los Angeles Times recent expose reported the following eye popping salaries:

1.    City Manager Robert Rizzo, $800,000.00, but actually received around $1.5 million when the total compensation package is considered;

2.    Assistant City Manager, over $400,000.00;

3.    Director of Administrative Services, $423,700.00;

4.    Police Chief, $376,000.00;

5.    Business Development Coordinator, $295,617;

6.    Director of Community Services, $273,540.00;

7.    Department of City Engineer, $247,573.00;

8.    Police Captain, $238,075.00; Police Lieutenant, $229,997.00.When the other benefits are thrown in, including paid vacations, sick time, insurance and retirement plans, the compensation package for each is substantially higher.

As for council members, each receives $100,000.00 per year for a couple of regular evening meetings per month, although council members of most cities with part time councils receive much smaller or token allowances.

Having served 12 years ( three [3] terms) as mayor and councilman of Monterey Park, (1976-1988), I deemed it a privilege and an honor to serve the city in which I was raising my six (6) children while carrying a full time law practice.  My fellow council members and I received a monthly allowance of $200.00 ($400.00 for the mayor) to cover a part of our costs in connection with our city activities.  We viewed elective office as a voluntary endeavor and were willing to devote our time, efforts and personal resources to bettering the community for our families and fellow residents.

When traveling to China and Taiwan as mayor in 1982 and 1986 (at my own expense), I bought and paid for gold keys and gifts to pass out to officials in those countries.  When I traveled to Harvard University to address the JFK School of Government (at their invitation) on the “English only” issue, (Monterey Park having passed such an ordinance which I voted against), I also did so at my own expense, as I did when invited to address the Pacific Asian Conference of Municipalities in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to speak about our Community Redevelopment Program since the theme of the conference was “Urban Development in the 1980s”.

The staggering Bell salaries are simply mind boggling and clearly justify the on-going investigations by the Attorney General and District Attorney’s offices for possible criminal activity and voter fraud.

It appears that council members knocked on some doors a few years ago urging citizens to sign and entrust them with their absentee ballots.  This apparently led to a little known city election (less than 400 votes cast) to change Bell into a charter city, thus avoiding the restrictions imposed under the Government Code on “general law” cities.

Bell has also overcharged their citizens on their property tax by millions of dollars exceeding the maximum rate allowed by state law, all the while discharging, furloughing and/or reducing work hours for some employees including public safety personnel.

Considering the enormity of Bell officials’ financial misdeeds, some high profile criminal trials will likely ensue that will captivate the nation’s attention.

Look for some criminal indictments to be issued following the completion of investigations, a county grand jury having already subpoena thousands of documents.

A possible bright spot that may come out of all of this is that elected officials and administrators of other cities may be inhibited from committing similar abuses.

2013 SGVJournal. Developed and Designed by Charlene on Green

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