For Whom The Bell Tolls: Eight City Officials Arrested in Pay Scandal

There has been a development in the story over the officials in Bell, California. As we previously discussed, city officials raked in obscene salaries until exposed by the media. Eight of the officials have now reportedly been arrested, including former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo. Also reportedly arrested were Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia; Mayor Oscar Hernandez; Councilmembers Luis Artiga, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal; and former Councilmembers George Cole and Victor Bello.

Robert Rizzo is California’s $13 million man. While Rizzo and two of his colleagues have resigned from their positions with the small town of Bell (where Rizzo was pulling in a salary of roughly $800,000 a year), they will still be able to collect millions in pension. In Rizzo’s case, his $650,000 annual pension could yield $13 million in twenty years.

Rizzo was making roughly twice the salary of President Obama — to oversee a city of less than 40,000 people. Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia and Police Chief Randy Adams also resigned.

Adams was making 50% more than the chief of police in Los Angeles. He was pulling in $457,000 and Spaccia made $376,288 a year.

Adams could now claim more than $411,000 a year and Spaccia, 51, could claim as much as $250,000 a year. Spaccia would have to wait until when she reaches 55 however. She could then pull in $7,500,000 if she lives another thirty years. Even at 20 years, Adams could pull in $8,220,000. As for Rizzo, a twenty-year pension period would give him an additional $13,000,000 dollars.

The charges appear to be misappropriation of public funds. Rizzo alone is facing 53 counts of misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest.

Witnesses said that police used a battering ram to break down the front door of Hernandez before taking him away in handcuffs.

Source: LA Times

23 thoughts on “For Whom The Bell Tolls: Eight City Officials Arrested in Pay Scandal”

  1. gbk,

    You’re welcome and to my knowledge, Mike is just fine other than suffering a touch of the flu. He should be back to blogging as soon as he is able.

  2. former Bell Police Chief Randy Adams (LA Times link, above):

    “Already one of California’s highest paid public pensioners, former Bell Police Chief Randy Adams asks a state pension panel to double his retirement pay to reflect the huge salary he received during his brief stint as the top cop in the scandal-plagued city.

    If Adams wins his case, which is being heard in Orange County, his pension would zoom to $510,000 a year, making him the second-highest-paid public pensioner in California.

    On the witness stand, Adams invokes his 5th Amendment right to not incriminate himself 20 times, including when asked about his Bell salary, which was among the highest law enforcement paychecks in the nation.”

    -from the LA Times link, previous comment

  3. Thanks, Gene. I’ve been waiting for the verdict… and now, sentencing, not to mention Rizzo’s trial. And there’s the police chief, but don’t get me going…

    ============

    (http://timelines.latimes.com/bell/ A timeline of events:

    “Bell: ‘Corruption on Steroids’”

    “The Bell cor­rup­tion scan­dal burst onto the na­tion’s front pages in 2010 as a story about a small city whose lead­ers paid them­selves out­sized salar­ies.

    As the scan­dal un­fol­ded, it be­came clear that the prob­lems in Bell dated back years and per­meated city gov­ern­ment. The timeline…tracks key events.”)

    From the above link:

    1) “Bell council members turn down prosecutors’ offer of a two-year sentence, which would have required restitution

    Residents are outraged by the offer, says Cristina Garcia, a spokeswoman for BASTA. “Two years isn’t enough,” she says. “The people of Bell are going to be paying for generations for what they have done.””

    2) Missing in the line-up of defendants was the town’s police chief.

    For running the city’s 46-person Police Department, Randy Adams made more than the Los Angeles police chief or the Los Angeles County sheriff. His contract, prosecutors said, was drawn up so citizens would be unable to learn the real size of his paycheck.

    At a routine hearing on the Bell case, Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy asked: “I don’t know why he is not a defendant in this case.” Kennedy added later: “That is not a man of integrity. This is not the man who is going to clean up the Police Department.

  4. Gene H.,

    Thanks, missed that one.

    BTW, is Mike S. ok? I ask only due to his absence and hope he’s well.

  5. UPDATE: Grand jury indicts Robert Rizzo and assistant on new Bell corruption allegations

    “A Los Angeles County grand jury unsealed indictments Wednesday against former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo and his assistant, Angela Spaccia, related to a plan to boost their retirement benefits, marking new allegations in the sweeping public corruption scandal.

    The indictments are the first to come out of the grand jury, which was called to investigate allegations of massive corruption in Bell’s city government. Rizzo and Spaccia and six other current and former Bell officials already were facing dozens of criminal charges stemming from allegations that they looted the city and lined their pocketbooks.

    The newest charges — unsealed Wednesday — are related to Rizzo and Spaccia’s roles in creating generous supplemental retirement packages for themselves. An early letter from the grand jury to the defendants suggested that the package benefited the two officials more than any other city employees and constituted a conflict of interest.

    The Times first reported in September that the city had a supplemental plan that allowed employees to circumvent retirement limits set by California. An employee who worked in Bell for 25 years at age 55 could get 90% of their salary — far more than most public employees who retire at age 60. Under this scenario, Rizzo’s pension could have been close to $1 million annually.

    The grand jury also indicted the pair on charges of creating false documents to hide the true salary of Bell Police Chief Randy Adams. Adams became the highest paid police official in the nation when he was hired by Bell, earning an annual salary of $457,000. He has not been charged in the corruption case.

    [Updated at 10:10 a.m.: Both Rizzo and Spaccia pleaded not guilty to the new charges and denied all allegations. Judge Patricia M. Schnegg set their next court date for May 3, the same day as two other Bell cases. Their bail was set at $200,000 each, but both Spaccia and Rizzo were released on their own recognizance.”

  6. I still put the majority of the blame on the residents for failing to take interest in their city’s politcal affairs. The year after a state law went into affect that limited pay for parttime council members for non-charter cities, the Bell council put an initiative on the ballot to change their status to charter. Only 400 residents voted. That is a little over 1% of the population. I saw a news clip of outraged residents that were asked how many times they attending council meetings before this incident and not a single one could state they took any interest.

  7. If some rich community of 40,000 people wanted to pay their officials absurd amounts of money, I wouldn’t inherently be opposed. It’s their taxes, they can do with it what they want.

    The problem here is that Bell, CA is hardly “rich.” According to the 2008 Census estimates, the per capita annual income in Bell was about $13,600, and the median household income was about $38,500. That’s not poor, but it certainly isn’t rich. It’s nuts to think that the population of that town would all pay about %1 of their annual income each year over the next few decades in order to pay nothing but the pensions of former town executives.

    I’ll be interested to see if these charges go anywhere. It seems that these folks made at least some effort to have their pay and pensions approved through official channels. I would think that the prosecutor is in a political position where if he doesn’t at least try to throw something against the wall in hopes of it sticking, then he’ll create problems when he runs for higher office. (Is it cynical or fair of me to always assume that all prosecutors are to some degree setting themselves up for future political campaigns?)

    Criminal charges aside, did these people think that their plan was actually sustainable? Also, if I was collecting that kind of money, and in this situation, I’d be hanging out in Switzerland, not waddling around near “ground zero” waiting for the inevitable repercussions. I’m taking the fact that they stuck around to mean that they believed they had their legal t’s dotted and i’s crossed…

  8. Paul L.

    “Odd, No mention the party affiliation of the officials. So, I assume they’re Democrats.”

    Did you read the LA Times article to see if the party affiliation of the officials was mentioned?

  9. Party affiliation is irrelevant.

    An embezzler is as an embezzler does. The charges relate to the misappropriation of funds, not to their being a Democrat or Republican (which while not against the law per se, it is arguable that either party is an ongoing criminal enterprise).

  10. I really liked the reports that their neighbors were literally applauding the arrest as it happened.

  11. Man, my heart goes out to these people that have been so unjustly accused….I really feel your pain…just too bad it wasn’t on the East Coast where pilfering the public troughs is acceptable….I do hope you get your day in court to explain your side….maybe Claire will take a break and defend you. We all know how much she cares about the process…You are my hero’s…NOT

    TOO Bad Wall Street was already taken…..

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