With only 37,000 residents, the city of Bell, about 10 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles is one of the poorest cities in LA County. With a population that is 90% Latino, 53% foreign-born, its per capita income $24,800 (in 2008) is about half that for the U.S. as a whole.
Yet its top officials received some of the highest salaries in the nation, including nearly $800,000 annually for its City Manager Robert Rizzo, according to documents reviewed by The Los Angeles Times and reported earlier in the week.
In addition to the obscenely high salary for 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. Top officials routinely received hefty annual 12% raises.
With arrogance clearly on display, Rizzo, who has run Bell’s day-to-day civic affairs since 1993, was unapologetic about his pay when the excessive salaries were disclosed.
“If that’s a number people choke on, maybe I’m in the wrong business,” he said. “I could go into private business and make that money. This council has compensated me for the job I’ve done.”
Spaccia agreed, adding: “I would have to argue you get what you pay for.”
Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez defended the salaries. “Our city is one of the best in the area. That is the result of the city manager. It’s not because I say it. It’s because my community says it.”
But an overflow crowd packing a City Council meeting had other thoughts as they called for the resignation of Mayor Hernandez and other city officials. Residents left standing outside the chamber banged on the doors and shouted “fuera,” or “get out” in Spanish.
Read more in this Bloomberg News report.