Even More Trouble in Bell
As if the good people of Bell, California didn’t have enough trouble.
In July, the Los Angeles Times disclosed that officials in this poor Latino town of 37,000 residents were among the highest paid local officials in the US. The city manager (2009 salary: $787.637), the assistant city manager ($376,288) and the police chief ($457,000) were forced to resign amid public backlash over their lavish compensation.
As a result of the negative publicity, the State of California required local governments to post payroll details on their websites. The City’s director of administrative services and director of general services both are paid over $420,000. The director of community services and the deputy city engineer were probably chagrined to learn they were paid just over half — $240,000 plus each — of their colleagues.
The Police Department was no stranger to the municipal largesse. Two police captains are paid over $235,000 per year. A police lieutenant is paid just under $230,000. Two police sergeants are paid over $165,000. In total, forty-five city employees are currently paid salaries over $100,000. Meanwhile, Bell is one of the poorest communities in Los Angeles County.
But, this tale of greed at the public trough doesn’t end with ridiculous salaries.
KTLA-TV reports that city officials overcharged Bell residents nearly $3 million in property taxes. An audit by the State Controller found the city raised the municipal pension portion of the property tax level nearly 48% from 2007 to 2010. The increases were in violation of state law which froze those rates at 1983-84 levels.
In another development, the Los Angeles Times reports that fifty city employees received “loans” from city funds. For example, the former city manager received loans totaling $160,000 due to “financial difficulties” despite his $787.000 salary. The assistant city manager received loans of $200,000. Other employees received loans to assist them in purchasing homes, and as Bell has no city residency requirement, most were homes outside of the city.
It seems clear we haven’t reached the bottom of this cesspool yet.
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