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Tag Archive: Local Corruption

Bell, California: Moving From Secrecy to Sunshine

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Bell-seal

We can't keep our eyes off the City of Bell, California -- and for good reasons.

The city gained notoriety in 2010 when the Los Angeles Times began to expose high salaries for city officials who did next to nothing. It was a problem that had been brewing for years, as the LA Times charted in a timeline of the corruption.

Bell's government is different now.

Bell has most recently been in the news not just for reaching a culminating point in the scandal -- the trial of six former city council members on corruption charges -- but also for a high transparency grade as part of a government website review. Sunshine Review, a non-profit that examines state and local government transparency, gave the city an A- grade in the 2013 Sunny Awards. The grades are based on whether certain information like budgets, open meeting laws, and lobbying records are posted online, as outlined in this checklist.

This is one indicator of the many steps the city government has taken toward greater transparency. Bell's efforts are notable for several reasons.

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Obama’s Real Estate Deal and Local Entanglements

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In writing about Sen. Barack Obama's real estate dealings with Antoin "Tony" Rezko--a big fundraiser in Illinois politics who's currently under indictmnet for activities including allegedly "shaking down firms" with business before the state--Chicago Sun Times reporter Lynn Sweet draws an important distinction. Local Chicago reporters and columnists--including those from the Tribune (which broke the story), the Sun-Times, local radio and the local Associated Press crew--learn that Obama is involved with Rezko, and start asking hard questions. While other papers pick up the story, they're in essence repeating what the local reporters have dug out.

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Ah, Local Corruption:

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Here at The Sunlight Foundation we focus our attention at the federal government, in particular Congress, and the many officials, members, staffers, and hangers-on who engage in dubious, if not criminal, behavior. In doing this we often overlook some of the better corruption stories from across the nation. Today we have an Arkansas mayor who solicited sex from two women after they fell behind on their water bills:

Troy Anderson, 72, is accused of abusing the public trust and patronizing a prostitute. After hearing complaints about delinquent water bills, Anderson solicited sex from the women, authorities said. In January, a woman who said she had refused Anderson's requests went to the mayor for help in getting her granddaughter out of state Department of Health and Human Services custody. The mayor told the woman he might be able to help, and that she should meet him at an apartment, the affidavit said. ... Another woman told investigators that she'd been having sex with Anderson for money for the past eight to 10 years. She said Anderson paid her $25 per encounter and that he allowed her to change the name on her overdue water bill, which kept her water turned on, the affidavit said. The mayor also gave the woman $60 to pay a late water deposit in exchange for sex, the affidavit said. The woman's bill was $617 overdue, the affidavit said.
It looks like Mayor Anderson is running for the Honorary Marion Barry Award.

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