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Residents warn of recall if council members remain

July 23rd, 2010 . by TexasFred

Residents warn of recall if council members remain

BELL, Calif. (AP) - City Council members who make nearly $100,000 a year for governing this small, poverty-plagued suburb of Los Angeles must resign immediately or face a recall campaign, a community group warned Friday.

The threat came hours after it was announced that the city manager, assistant city manager and police chief were stepping down following 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.

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

The group, whose acronym is Spanish for “enough,” said if the council members don’t step down by Monday’s council meeting, it will begin working for their recall.

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

The group is talking with Velez to determine if he wants to remain on the council.

“We support his staying if he’s willing to help us fight the corruption,” Saleh said.

Council members emerged from an hours-long closed session at midnight and announced 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 Barack Obama - 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 Friday. 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, after completing an evaluation of the Police Department, the Times said.

Rizzo 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, 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, though the figure is less precise than for the other two officials, the Times said.

City Council members who earn about $100,000 a year receive most of that as compensation for serving on city agencies such as the Planning Commission and the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority.

California law limits the salaries of City Council members in most cities of Bell’s size to about $400 a month, unless voters approve a higher wage. It also sets a $150 pay limit for each commission, committee or board on which a council member serves.

That law was signed in September 2005. Two months later, Bell held an election - in which fewer than 400 people voted - that declared it a charter city and allowed it to bypass the state law applying to “general law” cities.

The city charter says council pay can’t exceed that allowed to similar cities by the state law. But it permits council members to create and serve on any commissions or boards they want - at any compensation they set.

The county district attorney’s office is investigating to determine if the high salaries for the council members violate any state laws. The City Council also intends to review city salaries, including those of its own members, according to Councilman Luis 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 have said they considered the City Council pay to be justified.

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