Los Angeles News

Bell city manager absent from council meeting

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hundreds of angry residents attended Monday night's Bell council meeting after reports emerged that city administrators have extravagant salaries while taxpayers struggle to make ends meet.

High salaries are not necessarily against the law, but Bell residents said this is over the top. Their chants outside for council members to resign could be heard inside the council chamber.

Bell is a city of 37,000 people with mostly blue-collar workers. A typical salary for a city manager for a town the size of Bell is around $100,000 per year. Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo earns $780,000.

Protests have been growing as more residents learn about the exorbitant salaries.

"You cannot justify an $800,000-a-year salary for a city this side," said Bell resident Danny Harber. "You cannot justify that a police chief probably makes more than the head of the FBI."

Residents want to know what's behind the fat paychecks. Rizzo says he's worth it because he bailed the city out of bankruptcy 17 years ago. Recently, he hired Bell Police Department Chief Randy Adams. Adams, who was retired from the Glendale Police Department, earns $450,000 yearly.

On Monday, Adams defended his pay.

"This is southeast L.A.," Adams said. "Some of the former members of this department are in the federal penitentiary right now. They asked me to come in and make an assessment and bring in best practices to this police department, and I have diligently been trying to do that.

Also, the district attorney is concerned about the salaries of the Bell City Council members. They earn $100,000 for their part-time jobs, including compensations for meetings, which in some cases last only one minute.

Residents voiced their frustration on social networking sites like Facebook.

"All we want is justice. We want them to be fair. That's what we want. We don't win anything out of this. You know, we don't want them to lose their jobs, but if they don't care about us, we have to do what we have to do," said Bell resident Willie Aguilar.

"Our government is not supposed to work that way. You guys are stealing from the poor, and you guys are laughing all the way to the bank," said another Bell resident Denisse Rodarte.

Bell residents have a median income of $40,000 per year, and more than half are immigrants. Some want the chief and the city manager fired, while others just want the salaries bumped down and the wealth spread around.

"All we can do is conform to our legalities and negotiate what we can," said Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo.

A Bell City Council meeting began at 7 p.m. at Bell City Hall to discuss the issue. The council decided to meet again next Monday to discuss the salaries and no action was taken on the matter.

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