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. @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).

  2. 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:

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Mike,

    Just remember, the only bad pun is the one you didn’t think of first.

  6. 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.

  7. Mike A.,

    That’s a nice dog you got there mister. What breed is that? Shaggy? 😉 lol

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Thanks all.


    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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

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