Just a few days after it was revealed that six-figure salaries and hefty benefits packages among Bell city employees were more common than initially thought, the salarly scandal investigation expanded.
On Monday, Attorney General Jerry Brown, also a candidate for governor, ordered past and present officials of Bell to turn over their financial records. He said he subpoenaed tax, salary and other records and told officials to give depositions under oath within two weeks.
The announcement came after more documents regarding the salary scandal were posted online Friday.
As if the $787,000 salary for former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo wasn't enough to drop your jaw, the new records show collected and promised perks increased Rizzo's compensation to more than $1.5 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Rizzo's benefits package -- which covers time off as well as retirement, medical and other types of insurance -- shows he was paid for time off that amounted to more than 20 weeks per year.
Bell's new interim city attorney said Saturday that Rizzo’s compensation package raised serious questions and that the city planned to investigate who approved the perks and whether they were legal.
“It appears Rizzo was getting an inordinate amount of hours of vacation and sick benefits and being paid for it,” Bell's new interim city attorney, Jamie Casso, said to the Times. “We’re looking to see when it was approved, whether it was approved at a City Council meeting and who approved it.”
Compensation experts said Rizzo’s compensation was far above the norm especially for a working-class city of nearly 40,000 residents.
“This is extraordinary, it is outlandish and in absolutely no way represents normal compensation for city managers," the West Coast regional director of the International City/County Management Assn. and a retired city manager, Dave Mora, said to the Times. “Extreme is a kind word.”
The city of about 40,000 residents came to national attention after the Los Angeles Times reported last month that Rizzo was being paid his hefty salary, Police Chief Randy Adams was being paid $457,000 annually, and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia received $376,000. Additionally, the mayor and three of the other four council members were being paid around $100,000 for their part-time jobs.
The new information, posted Friday night, shows that at least seven other city officials had six-digit salary and benefit packages. Based on the data, the citizens' group "is demanding the immediate resignation of other administrators making disproportional salaries as compared to their contemporaries in other cities."
But Bell city officials didn't stop with the outlandish salaries, they also issued $35 million in bonds, twice the size of Bell's annual operating budget, to buy land near the 710 Freeway, according to the Times.
In June 2006, Rizzo, who was both the city administrator and executive director of the Bell Public Financing Authority, told the City Council that an opportunity was "at hand."
He urged the council to issue a bond and use the money to buy an unused piece of federal land and lease it to Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, according to the Times.
He said the federal government wanted to sell unused land in an industrial area near the 710 and suggested buying the land and renting it to the railroad, which wanted to expand its nearby freight distribution operation.
The long-term lease, which would have brought bring in monthly rent of $142,693, would be a money-earner, he wrote in a memo to city leaders.
The bonds did not require voter approval because lease revenue bonds do not obligate the city's general funds to pay them off.
Bell purchased the land, but in October 2007, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, a citizens group that tries to stop industrial pollution on the 710 corridor, sued the city and the railroad, noting the city did not do a state environmental review before buying the land.
In July 2008, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant sided with the environmentalists and criticized Bell officials for ignoring the California Environmental Quality Act.
"The whole idea of CEQA is that you are supposed to prepare your environmental review before you enter into the lease with the railroad," said the judge. "The law is supposed to be followed for a project. They didn't do anything."
Despite spending nearly $25 million for the property and millions more to upgrade it, Bell never made a deal with the railroad and apparently has been unable to lease the land to anyone else, according to the Times.
In November, the land could be foreclosed on.