Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bell City - Just the Absurd Apex of Business as Usual

Bell, California, just 10 miles from Los Angeles, is a town of 37,000, with a per capita income half the US average, and a general fund budget of $15 million. Wikipedia reports the median income in Bell is $29,946.

Last week the Los Angeles Times broke the story that, unbeknownst to most of the town's population, the city manager, the assistant city manager, the chief of police, and even the town council members, all pull down stratospheric salaries.

Reporters Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives noted:
Bell, one of the poorest cities in Los Angeles County, pays its top officials some of the highest salaries in the nation, including nearly $800,000 annually for its city manager, according to documents reviewed by The Times.

In addition to the $787,637 salary of Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo, Bell pays Police Chief Randy Adams $457,000 a year, about 50% more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck or Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and more than double New York City's police commissioner. Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia makes $376,288 annually, more than most city managers.

and goes into how the Council may have worked their way around State laws in garnering salaries 20 times what they should have received
The district attorney is investigating Bell over the hefty compensation of its City Council members -- about $100,000 a year for part-time positions. Normally, council members in a city the size of Bell would be paid about $400 a month, Demerjian said.

The council has increased its compensation by paying members for serving on a variety of city agencies, including the Community Redevelopment Agency, the Community Housing Authority, the Planning Commission, the Public Financing Authority, the Surplus Property Authority and the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority.

Demerjian said city records show each council member receives $7,873.25 per month for sitting on those boards.

Records indicate that the boards of those agencies perform little work and that board meetings take place during council meetings, though the names of some of the agencies seldom appear.

In some years, the council would hold separate meetings for those agencies, and they would sometimes last no more than a minute. On July 31, 2006, four agencies each met for one minute. On March 3, 2008, the redevelopment agency meeting was called to order at 7:21 p.m. and adjourned at 7:22 p.m.

Councilman Luis Artiga, who was appointed to the council 15 months ago to fill an unexpired term, said he had no idea how much he would be paid. When he received his first check, he thought it was "a miracle from God."

Rubin posted a follow up article yesterday in the Times, now that the Bell community is up in arms.
At a closed-door meeting Monday night, as hundreds of residents protested outside, council members also discussed reducing their own pay. Most of them make $100,000 a year.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has inquired about the salaries.

Resigning would make City Manager Robert Rizzo, Police Chief Randy Adams and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia eligible for lucrative pensions. But the three also have contracts that protect them from being fired without cause.

As a result, unless they agree to resign, the city would face the prospect of buying out their contracts, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional payments.

Reuters reporter, Jim Christie, is reporting that the Bell city manager, Robert Rizzo, is expected to do quite well on his pension:
If Rizzo leaves his job, which irate residents of Bell are demanding, he could draw $884,692 in his first year of retirement, according to her calculations [Marcia Fritz, who heads the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility].

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.

The Bell website lists a Mayor, Vice Mayor, and three Council members.

Now, the Bell officials chose to spend their tax money on themselves and key employees. How different are we in Indianapolis, where we choose, instead, to spend our tax money on powerful movers and shakers?


Anonymous said...

Have these guys been taking lessons from Diamond Don Stinson and his administratorcronies at Decatur twp schools?

Anonymous said...

I think it's fast reaching the point where we're gonna have to dust off grandpa's old double-barrel and go run these people out of town. We simply can no longer afford the "legal" if not "ethical" rip-off.

Snarky said...

Perhaps Bell City is simply on a journey toward excellence?

Anonymous said...

Or they are "reinventing" with their "tranformational" leadership. Enough is enough. Decatur is not alone - the public is speaking and the answer if NO to the outrageous spending and selfish behaviors of a few. At Decatur, these "pigs" don't even live in the community.

Anonymous said...

That doesn't stop them from slopping at the public trough in Decatur twp, their bad table manners notwithstanding.

I can imagine Henson rubbing his stomach and belching comfortably after dining with Stinso, or Judy Collins worrying about her getting a little broader in the beam from eating a 2nd helping of Stinson's cake...but I'm confident that robbing school children of their funding doesn't bother them a bit.

I have to snicker at Gary, Coach Phil and the other Stinson apologists here who whine that, while Stinson's stealing from our kids might not be "ethicaL", is isn't "illegal". That is the underlying disease that permeates Stinson, his fat-cat cronies in the admin office, and on the school board. It doesn't have to be right, as long as it's technically legal. As if adherence to an ethical code of conduct is superfluous in an organization supposedly committed to setting an example for the young adults in the student population.

Anonymous said...

Theft is only a matter of degree; we should be outraged at the various ways our money is stolen. But as long as we pay homage to the false political party dichotomy, we will get our pockets picked by both parties - and they will continue to laugh at us while they do it.

Anonymous said...

Lest we forget...Stinson, "Shake 'Em Down" Jeff Baer and our cake-eating school board are guilty of far more than a mere cavalier attitude toward ethical conduct. Thanks to Pat's well-document research and attached links here on the blog, it is clear that our fat-cats have indeed violated state law!

The trouble is that these "house-keeping" type laws do not provide for a criminal penalty. The state code is replete with laws like that, guidelines set in place to keep gov't administration all on the same page. Those laws were promulgated in an innocent time when we didn't have to threaten our elected officials with prison to keep them in line. Sadly, given the robber baron entitlement attitude of gov't admin types like Stinson and his school board cronies, it appears that we will be obliged to "criminalize" our state's admin law so bloated fat-cat free-loaders steal from our children at the risk of jail time.

The 1970's vintage "situational ethics" of these gray-haired, pot-bellied, scam-artists are killing us.

Anonymous said...

Diamond Don does not have the ability or moral standards to lead a school system. Residents do have the right to go to board meetings, sign up to address the board, give the board a written statement requesting that Stinson be dismissed for failure to follow board decisions such as the one eliminating administrator severance payments, and give a copy of the request to the media.

Unigov said...

This sort of thing has been going on for a long time.

In the 1970's numerous Indy politicians (Julia Carson for one) got bribes to aware cable contracts. The result is that Indy citizens have paid hundreds of millions more for cable TV than we would have had to if the city "leaders" had allowed competition instead of awarding monopolies (see Rex Early's book).

Well before that, when the US threw the Miami Indians out of Indiana, part of the deal (treaty) was that the chief of the Miami got a mansion in northern Indiana. The rest of the tribe got a one way ticket west.

Anonymous said...

Decatur Township Schools is on a Journey Toward Extortion.

Anonymous said...

In extortion, the victim willingly turns the goods over to avoid a threatened violence or other harm.

Many groups - the teachers, some administrators, and some taxpayers have given support to the superintendent to avoid criticism and other consequences from the superintendent.

If the taxpayers who realize all of the "foul" antics that are happening continue to forget to attend board meeting and speak for justice and honesty, they, too, will continue to be the willing victims.

Anonymous said...

Why does the high school get a new "Graduation Coach" position when there is a reduction in teaching positions???????????

Anonymous said...

My guess is that the coach's job is to convince marginal 12 grade students to quit school so they don't drag down the graduation percentage stats and make Diamond Don look bad. Cake-eating Donnie specializes in turning out ditch-diggers in his "journey toward mediocrity".

Anonymous said...

Don't understand why the counselor can't be the "Graduation Coach." They need to spend money on teachers for the classroom. Period.