If you’re not familiar with the shocking story of Bell, a Los Angeles suburb, here’s a quick overview. Due to a lack of salary transparency city officials were able to pay themselves exorbitant salaries (City Manager Robert Rizzo was set to earn $1.5 million in 2010), give themselves loans and overtax the city. Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley called it “corruption on steroids”.
Once the story broke, activists forced the resignation of several city officials and others slashed their pay. The community didn’t feel that as enough recompense and pushed for charges. Today at least eight city officials were arrested. The LA Times has the story:
Cooley filed charges against eight Bell officials Tuesday, alleging that they misappropriated $5.5 million in public funds. Rizzo has been charged with 53 counts of misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest.
The full audit by state Controller John Chiang’s office has previously found that Bell illegally overtaxed residents and businesses by $5.6 million. In addition to the retirement funds, Rizzo received two city loans of $80,000, officials said.
After The Times disclosed the loans, city officials said they were suspending the loan program and were trying to determine how many of the loans were repaid.
Back in August we wrote about how well Bell makes the case for grassroots transparency. Our grassroots movement to find and resolve other Bells around the country is the Public=Online campaign. Click here to sign up to volunteer in your local community.