For Whom the Bell Tolls: Outrage After Small Town Discovers City Manager Makes Almost $800,000 a Year

There is an amazing story out of Bell, California where citizens in the small city of 38,000 are outraged at news that Chief Administrative Office Robert Rizzo makes almost $800,000 a year and its police chief Randy Adams makes $457,000. As a point of comparison, Los Angeles (with a population of 3.8 million people) pays its police chief roughly half what Bell pays its Chief of Police. There have been calls for the resignation of Mayor Oscar Hernandez and other city officials.

In addition, Bell council members earn almost $100,000 for part-time work. Those salaries have triggered an investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Dave Demerjian, head of the office’s Public Integrity Division said Bell council members were receiving $8,083 a month, mostly by serving on city-related commissions, but California law limits salaries of council members to “several hundred dollars a month.”

Rizzo makes over twice the salary of the President of the United States in overseeing a city of fewer than 40,000 people.

Bell citizens made an annual salary of $24,800 per capita in 2008 and its revenues have been declining.

Rizzo is expected to resign or be fired.

Source: Bloomberg

39 thoughts on “For Whom the Bell Tolls: Outrage After Small Town Discovers City Manager Makes Almost $800,000 a Year

  1. Ask not for whom the Bell toils. It toils for thee.

    Thank you and good night! Don’t forget to convict your criminals! (drops microphone and leaves stage)

  2. I know its hard to keep track of all levels of government, but people need to take the time and devote at least some to keep track of what our leaders are doing, otherwise they have no one but themselves to blame.

    After all you can’t fault the hogs for eating at a full trough….

  3. this is not unbelievable at all, what do people expect? This is what happens when you have big government run by elites for their personal gain. Government is, in my mind, make work jobs for people who are unable to compete in the private sector and need an avenue for wealth creation for themselves.

    When you make 40 times the salary of the people you are working for you are no longer able to do your job properly. And those people are paying your salary through their hard work. Someone needs to be severely punished and the rest of us should wake up and throw all these bloody bastards out, along with the entrenched bureaucracy that really runs the government into the ground. Government service should not be a road to wealth.

    Harry Truman retired with hardly anything but the house he owned, seems fair enough to me. Why should we pay huge pensions to someone who worked for 8 years? Let them go back to work or write books or speak to earn their money. Same for congress, who the hell do these people think they are? We have to work 30-40 years to get a chicken shit retirement because the laws passed by these jack asses restrict wealth creation. All the while they are sucking on the government teat with excellent benefits and large retirement salaries and for what? 8-12 years of screwing us over?

    Send them back to the private sector how they came in and let them fend for themselves under the bullshit laws they make us labor under. They can do what the rest of us do and put some money aside in a Roth IRA for their retirement. I bet that would change the limits real quick. Simple minded dipsticks are what most of them are and naturally tending toward corruption by virtue of their opinion of themselves as the anointed elite.

  4. And how much are the parking clerks making, $250K?

    Let’s send the whole thing to the private sector. Everything. For those who didn’t see it, the New York Times just ran a piece on the city right next door to Bell, called Maywood, where they did just that.

    A City Outsources Everything. Sky Doesn’t Fall.

    While many communities are fearfully contemplating extensive cuts, Maywood says it is the first city in the nation in the current downturn to take an ax to everyone…

    … the celebration here is practically palpable. Freed from its employees, Maywood has nowhere to go but up, they say.

    “Remember the Soviet Union?” said Hector Alvarado, who heads a civic advocacy group. “They had a lot of bureaucracy, and they lost. Maywood was like that. Now people know if they don’t work, they will be laid off. Much better this way.”.

  5. ‘Bell council members were receiving $8,083 a month’

    Damn!

    ‘Rizzo makes over twice the salary of the President of the United States in overseeing a city of fewer than 40,000 people.’

    Double Damn!!!!!!!

  6. I’m all for axing the ‘good ol boy’ networks but what happens when they just shift to ‘private’ sector. Gamers are gamers….period. I still think we need regulation to PREVENT and control grafters….

  7. Buddha:

    it has a good deal to do with size. The people who run things in DC do not have the ability to control something very large. Even private corporations reach a size where it becomes harder and harder to control. Size precludes accountability because there are too many levels and branches.

    Look at the emmense beauracracy created by the Patriot Act, the Washington Post just did an expose on it and it looks like we are back to square one.

    So yes size does matter if you want accountability in government.

  8. Puzz:

    nice find. From the information I have seen, privatization is the way to go. It usually reduces cost and someone is accountable and you can not renew their contract if you don’t like the service.

  9. Byron–

    “From the information I have seen, privatization is the way to go. It usually reduces cost and someone is accountable and you can not renew their contract if you don’t like the service.”

    Don’t forget to keep in mind military contractors like Blackwater/Xe and others that have kept the costs of waging war down. They’ve given us cut-rate prices, haven’t they? All their workers have been models of perfect behavior, haven’t they?

    There are incompetent, lazy, greedy, nasty people everywhere you look. Some work for the government; some work for private companies. The same holds true for competent, hardworking, honest, upstanding folks.

  10. Byron,

    Complexity can create error. However, there is a huge difference between systemic error and criminal behavior. This is an example of the later, not the former. Just look at the comparable population served to pay data for LA the Prof. included in his story and the distinction should just jump off the page.

  11. Byron,

    Another example:

    Paying $400 for a hammer = systemic error.

    Charging $400 for a hammer = criminal behavior (fraud).

    Another more potentially fatal example (keep in mind the US military is one of if not the largest logistics operation in the world):

    Misplacing nuclear weapons/Broken Arrows = systemic error.

    Ordering the invasion of a country that didn’t attack us for personal profit = criminal behavior (treason).

  12. @Byron

    From the information I have seen, privatization is the way to go. It usually reduces cost and someone is accountable and you can not renew their contract if you don’t like the service.

    Except reality says otherwise. That is the problem with you libertarians, your policies look good on paper but in practice they have been proven not to work. They offer zero transparency to the residents and often cost more.

    The reason the city manager was paid $787k was because he argued that would be his salary in the private sector. All I hear from your types is government should be run like a business. They fail to understand that government is NOT a business, it is government. Its purpose is to serve the people. Outsourced operations are not accountable to the people. There is no way to implement transparency.

    I don’t know why I am offering a counter point, you have shown over the months that you are perfectly willing to revise history to support your argument. You lack integrity.

    The big failing here are the residents. They should have demanding greater transparency and scrutinized city operations. Most voters are not interested in govermental affairs and aloof to the details.

  13. This underscores the losses caused by the closure of many local newspapers and the failure of many otherwise responsible adults to stay informed about local affairs.

  14. Ishobo,

    Byron has integrity, he just (like all of us) is sometimes lacking in objectivity, and suffers from a severe case of lack of skepticism of anything that claims to support into his world view.

    So basically, he’s human. I have however seen him change his mind, and admit to errors. Which puts him a cut above many others on both sides of issues.

  15. Ishobo,

    I should also point out that I believe Byron does his best to respond to people. Being (more or less) the lone voice for his view, he does an admirable job in considering each of the cacophony of voices raised against him.

  16. That’s why many of us have taken to calling these creatures “the parasite class”. These are the kind of people who seek office and why one finds almost no decent people in these positions.

  17. Ditto what Gyges said. Byron and I disagree on almost everything. Still, he is always a gentleman when presenting his opinion and point of view at the Turley blawg.

  18. Thanks all.

    Elaine:

    I don’t agree with using mercenaries to fight our wars. Blackwater should be canned. The British didn’t do so well using Hessian’s.

  19. ishobo

    …..The big failing here are the residents. They should have demanding greater transparency and scrutinized city operations. Most voters are not interested in govermental affairs and aloof to the details.

    ===============================================================
    Bingo … this is, after all, a Representative Form of Government wherein the elected individuals represent the people … that doesn’t mean the people then get to goof off … it’s their responsibility to make certain their elected representatives (in this case the councilmembers) are representing them well. If one wants to be governed well, one has to pay attention. These raises didn’t happen overnight … it was a steady process … one vote after the other.

  20. This story is so absurd that I find nothing of interest to say about it. However, the title of the piece reminds me of a story I heard this past weekend on “Click and Clack,” one of my favorite radio programs. It seems that William Tell (immortalized in the “William Tell Overture”) is an actual historical figure and was an avid bowler. In fact, he and his family were in a number of bowling leagues during his lifetime. Unfortunately, all of those records have since been lost. As a result, scholars have never been able to determine for whom the Tells bowl.

  21. Buddha, your comment reminds me a book my mother had containing a collection of shaggy dog stories. I must have read it 50 years ago. I think it was by Bennett Cerf. Great stories.

    Elaine, I can’t hear your groans, but I can imagine them. They probably resemble what I heard at home when I told my wife that story.

  22. There is an update to this story from this morning.

    The city council has accepted the resignations of all three individuals, without severance. However, Reuters reports California city manager’s pension could top $30 million.

    Rizzo could draw $884,692 in his first year of retirement… At age 62, when Rizzo could also begin receiving Social Security payments, his annual pension would rise to $976,771, topping $1 million two years later. If he lives to age 83, his annual payout would rise to $1.48 million.

  23. Here is the article reporting the resignations.

    It also notes:

    …the crowd applauded after the announcement but immediately yelled out questions about what would happen to the council members. Four of the five of them are paid close to $100,000 annually for part-time work. When the crowd’s questions were not answered, they shouted, “Recall!, Recall!”

    Revelations about the pay in Bell has sparked anger in the city of fewer than 40,000 residents. Census figures from 2008 show 17 percent of the population lives in poverty.

  24. puzzling,

    I saw that story too. It’s also being reported that he will be the highest paid retiree in the state’s pension system.

    Here’s another interesting pension case that appeared a couple of weeks ago in The Orange County Register about the Treasurer who led the county into bankruptcy. He is collecting $148,327 a year, or a full 50% above his 1994 retirement of $92,904. Cost of living increases, you know. ;)

    The former sheriff who was indicted federal corruption charges and convicted on federal witness tampering is collecting a cool $217,457 while he is waiting appeal.

    The story:

    http://taxdollars.ocregister.com/2010/07/01/top-county-pensioners-include-the-disgraced-and-the-fired/60115/

  25. @Byron

    Looking at your comments, I agree with you on the comment that the US government bureaucracy needs to be done away with (the CIA would be a *great* start). So long as the government does not exist at the level of the people it represents, there can be nothing but a lot of double-talk and graft.

    That said, I think that in this case, Buddha is right in his “broken arrow” analogy. This kind of thing cannot happen without a lot of apathy on the part of the citizens. Nonetheless, I also believe that this situation could very likely have come about through political double-talking in the way the job contracts of the political officials were written out (see the “fake arrow hats protected under the US bailout” fiasco).

    In the end, a perfect government is impossible. You can only try to keep an eye on what is going on, and smack down the idiots who take advantage of the littlest loopholes for their own gain. Rizzo and his associates on the Bell city council should be held accountable if there has been wrongdoing (that said, *you* tell me how they could have pulled this off legally).

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