Citizens threaten to recall high-paid town’s officials

  • Mon Jul 26th, 2010 11:23am
  • News

By John Rogers Associated Press

BELL, Calif. — Just days after forcing the resignations of three of the highest paid municipal administrators in the U.S., the mayor and other town leaders of this modest Los Angeles suburb could find their own jobs in jeopardy.

The Bell City Council, which booted out its police chief, city manager and assistant city manager last Thursday, called another meeting for today to discuss the future of the city.

Activists were expected to demand salary cuts or resignations from the four council members who make more than $100,000 a year for their part-time work.

Meanwhile, state Attorney General Jerry Brown announced he will hold a news conference to disclose new developments in his probe of excessive salaries in the 2-square-mile city southeast of Los Angeles.

Hundreds of residents were enraged to learn last week that the three administrators who later resigned were making a total of more than $1.6 million a year.

“The fight doesn’t end here,” said Ali Saleh, who co-founded the group Bell Association to Stop the Abuse after the salaries were revealed. The group has now threatened to recall the council members if they don’t resign or lower their own salaries.

Nearly 300 raucous protesters marched Sunday to the homes and workplaces of the mayor, vice mayor and two council members yelling “Fuera!” or “Out!” Some carried signs and wore T-shirts proclaiming, “My city is more corrupt than your city,” and passed out fliers urging people to attend the council meeting.

The salaries exploded into public view after a Los Angeles Times investigation, based on California Public Records Act requests, showed the city payroll was bloated with six-figure salaries:

— Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo made $787,637 a year, getting a series of raises since being hired in 1993 at $72,000. President Barack Obama makes $400,000.

— Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia made $376,288 a year.

— Police Chief Randy Adams earned $457,000 — $150,000 more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.

Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez and three of the council’s four other members make about $100,000 a year, most of it in salaries for sitting on various boards and commissions. Councilman Lorenzo Velez makes a modest salary of about $8,000 a year.

If there is a recall, Saleh said his group would like Velez to stay on the council and work toward reforming government in the city of 40,000, where one in six people live in poverty and about half are foreign-born.