SoCal city seeks dismissal of high-paid officials

July 22, 2010 5:34:53 PM PDT
The City Council in this small, blue-collar suburb of Los Angeles intends to ask three administrators whose salaries total more than $1.6 million to resign Thursday or face possible firing.

The officials include Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo, who earns $787,637 a year -- nearly twice the pay of President Barack Obama -- for overseeing one of the poorest towns in Los Angeles County.

The others are Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, who makes $376,288 a year, and Police Chief Randy Adams, whose annual salary of $457,000 is 50 percent more than that of Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.

Councilman Luis Artiga said the panel planned to request the resignations during a closed-door, afternoon meeting that was called to consider dismissing the officials. A public hearing is scheduled for Monday.

All three officials under question have contracts that protect them from being fired without cause. If they refuse to quit, the city might have to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy out their contracts.

Revelations about the pay in Bell has sparked anger in the city of fewer than 40,000 residents. Census figures from 2008 show 17 percent of the population lives in poverty.

Enraged residents have staged protests demanding the firings and started a recall campaign against some council members.

"Woo, the salaries. Wow. What can I say? I think that's unbelievable," Christina Caldera, a 20-year resident of the city, said as she stood in line at a food bank.

Caldera, who is struggling after recently losing her job as a drug and alcohol counselor, said she generally was satisfied with the way the city was being run but felt high-paid officials should take a pay cut.

"What are they doing with all that money?" she asked. "Maybe they could put it into more jobs for other people."

Attempts to leave messages with city representatives seeking comment from Rizzo and Spaccia failed because their voicemails were full. A message left for Adams was not immediately returned.

The council members are paid well themselves -- four of the five members each make about $100,000 a year for the part-time work. The county district attorney's office is investigating to determine if the council's high salaries violate any state laws.

The City Council also intends to review city salaries, including those of its own members, according to Artiga and Mayor Oscar Hernandez.

"We are going to analyze all the city payrolls and possibly will revise all the salaries of the city," Artiga said.

However, both men said they considered the City Council pay to be justified.

"We work a lot. I work with my community every day," the mayor said.

Council members are on call around the clock, and it is not uncommon for them to take calls in the middle of the night from people reporting problems with city services, Artiga said.

The Los Angeles Times reported the salaries last week, prompting a large protest Monday at City Hall in which residents shouted and demanded that Rizzo be fired.

City officials at first defended the salaries. They said Rizzo joined a nearly bankrupt city 17 years ago and restored its finances. Hernandez told the Times that Bell has cleaner streets, lovely parks and better lighting.

If Rizzo leaves, he still would be entitled to a state pension of more than $650,000 a year for life, according to calculations made by the Times. That would make Rizzo, 55, the highest-paid retiree in the state pension system.

Adams could get more than $411,000.

Spaccia, 51, could be eligible for as much as $250,000 a year when she reaches 55, though the figure is less precise than for the other two officials, the Times said.


Load Comments