Residents of poor L.A. suburb threaten recall of richly paid city council members

City Council members who make nearly $100,000 a year for their part-time jobs governing Bell, a poverty-plagued suburb of Los Angeles, must resign, take a pay cut or face a recall campaign, a community group said Friday.

By JOHN ROGERS



The Associated Press

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BELL, Calif. — City Council members who make nearly $100,000 a year for their part-time jobs governing Bell, a poverty-plagued suburb of Los Angeles, must resign, take a pay cut or face a recall campaign, a community group said Friday.

The threat came hours after the city manager, assistant city manager and police chief agreed to step down because of a public outcry over their salaries, which total more than $1.6 million a year.

In the wake of that scandal, residents have lost trust in Mayor Oscar Hernandez and three other council members, said Ali Saleh, co-founder of the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, or BASTA.

“We are happy that all three resigned but the fight doesn’t end here,” Saleh said.

The group, whose acronym is Spanish for “enough,” is demanding that the big council salaries be cut by 90 percent or that the officials resign.

If they don’t resign, Saleh said, his group will initiate a recall.

City officials declined to respond to the recall threat Friday.

The group supports a fifth council member, Lorenzo Velez, who makes far less than his colleagues and has called for the other members to resign or freeze their salaries.

The Los Angeles Times said Hernandez, Vice Mayor and Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo and Councilmen George Mirabal and Luis Artiga are paid $8,000 a year, plus about $8,000 a month for boards and commissions they sit on. Velez said he is only paid the base $8,000 salary.

Council members emerged from an hours-long closed session early Friday and said they had accepted the resignations of Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo, Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia and Police Chief Randy Adams.

Rizzo was the highest paid at $787,637 a year — nearly twice the pay of President Obama, who makes $400,000 — for overseeing one of the poorest towns in Los Angeles County. Census figures for 2008 showed about 17 percent of the city’s less than 40,000 residents live in poverty.

Spaccia makes $376,288 a year and Adams earns $457,000, 50 percent more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.

The three officials will not receive severance packages, the Los Angeles Times reported. Rizzo will step down at the end of August, and Spaccia will leave at the end of September. Adams will also leave at the end of August.

Sources at Bell City Hall said officials — including City Council members — are prohibited under the resignation agreements from discussing the settlement terms publicly.

Rizzo would be entitled to a state pension of more than $650,000 a year for life, according to calculations made by the Los Angeles Times. That would make Rizzo, 56, the highest-paid retiree in the state pension system.

Adams could get more than $411,000 a year. Spaccia, 51, could be eligible for as much as $250,000 a year when she reaches 55, the Los Angeles Times said.

The mayor and three of the four council members, who approved the contracts for the three officials who resigned, also put an obscure measure on the ballot in 2005 that allowed council members to pay themselves any amount of money. The measure passed in an election in which fewer than 400 people voted.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the state attorney general are looking into the salaries.

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