In the small suburban city of Bell, Calif., about 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles as the crow flies, residents are outraged at their civic leaders for the lavish salaries they draw. We’re not talking peanuts, folks. The city manager draws about $800,000 a year and some of the part time elected city council $100,000.
The Los Angeles Times has raised such a fuss over the inflated salaries they suggest that the Bell officials earn more than any other city its size in America.
Never one to miss a golden opportunity, Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown announced Monday his office issued subpoenas for salary and employment records in the City of Bell. Brown, who blurs his office’s news releases with campaign statements in his bid for governor, said in a statement:
“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, and today’s subpoenas are an important step in that process.”
More on Brown later.
The mostly Hispanic residents of Bell, population 36,552 in 2009, are young (median age 25.9 years) and far from affluent (median household earnings $39,354 compared to the statewide $61,021 median).
What infuriated them as much as the salaries was that they were lied to — okay, given misleading information — by the city clerk last year.
At the request of one resident who heard rumors about the extravagant pay of some city officials, the clerk in a one-page memo reported Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo’s annual salary as $185,736 and that of city council members as $8,076. The clerk failed to note the compensation perks which the Times later reported.
Rizzo resigned last Thursday and four of the five city council members face a threatened recall if they don’t resign voluntarily.
The Times flatly reported Rizzo was the highest paid city manager in the nation. It also reported Police Chief Randy Adams was paid $457,000 a year, and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia earned $376,288.
In his statement, Brown, the attorney general, did not cite what section of state law the city officials violated. He wormed around that by saying salaries of other cities will be investigated to determine if similar abuses occur. At any rate, changes in California law are needed to prevent such practices, he said.
Brown is one slick dude. In his campaign for governor, he has been spanked by the Republican Meg Whitman staff for blurring high-profile cases brought about by the attorney general’s office on the same letterhead and website as his campaign press releases. And visa versa.
The Times has been especially tough on Brown for failing to spell out issue programs he favors as governor to counteract those offered by Whitman’s high-bankrolled glossy brochures which in some cases are factually challenged.
I’m not taking sides in the governor’s race. But I do suggest it is a travesty if Brown uses his office to investigate activity in a highly scandalous case where no apparent law has been broken.
(Note: The photo of Robert Rizzo is a file photo taken by Huntington Beach police after an unrelated arrest before he resigned as Bell city manager.)
Cross posted on The Remmers Report
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Jerry Remmers worked 26 years in the newspaper business. His last 23 years was with the Evening Tribune in San Diego where assignments included reporter, assistant city editor, county and politics editor.