A tipster dropped me a line the other day to say she'd spotted an infamous former public official in Huntington Beach, working as a parking lot guard at the International Surfing Museum. So I drove down Wednesday to have a look, and guess what: Humpty Dumpty has had a great fall.
Rizzo, who made $800,000 per year as Bell's city manager, told Lopez he enjoys volunteering. Museum docent Kitty Willis said Rizzo had been volunteering as a parking lot attendant to earn court-ordered community service hours after a drunken driving arrest last year.
"There was no heavy lifting in this job, as far as I could tell," Lopez told NBCLA. "I think a better public service would have been to send him to the city of Bell to pick trash up of the streets for the next 10 years."
But Rizzo's stay at the museum didn't last long. Not long after the Lopez column was published, Rizzo was gone.
"He's not here, and he's not going to volunteer here anymore," Willis said, adding Rizzo was never on the museum's payroll. She wouldn't say if Rizzo quit or was asked to leave.
His job was to make sure people who park in the lot are actually going to the museum, not nearby shops.
Willis said his absence was quickly noticed Thursday. She said several people not headed to the museum were seen sneaking into the lot.
Rizzo's attorney read Lopez's piece. What did he think?
"Today's piece was just name-calling," said attorney, James Spertus. "If I hadn't seen the picture of Steve Lopez heading the piece I'd think he was in sixth grade.
"There's a mob mentality out there that's fueled sometimes by opinion pieces like Steve Lopez wrote."
There might be a few other things fueling that mentality.
Rizzo was among eight city officials arrested Sept. 21 in connection with charges of misappropriation of public funds.
Rizzo is additionally charged with conflict of interest and falsification of public records by an official custodian. He has asked for a court order directing the city to pay his attorneys' fees.
"Oh, boo hoo for Mr. Rizzo," Lopez said. "Come on, these were not minor offenses that he was charged with.
"Yes, I was holding him up for public ridicule, I guess you could say, but he earned it."
Attorneys for Mayor Oscar Hernandez, Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo and former Councilman George Cole have filed court documents in recent weeks saying the city also should cover their legal expenses in a suit filed last year by the California attorney general's office. Jacobo and Cole also want Bell to pay their criminal defense costs on charges filed by Los Angeles County prosecutors, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.