Bell City Council Members Took Pay For Non-Existent Commission Meetings

The Times continues banging away on the Bell salary story, reporting that City Council members were paid thousands of dollars to sit on commissions that rarely met. That's how they wound up making nearly $100,000 per year until they knocked down their salaries last month to about $8,000.

It's hard to know which to be more outraged about: That they were being paid to sit on more-or-less non-existent commissions, or the explanation given by two of them that they didn't know they were being paid for the no-show commission jobs and assumed the 100 G's was for the part-time City Council work. With all the no-show work, it must have been hard to keep track.

Under the salary system, they received $150 monthly for council meetings and $60 monthly for the Redevelopment Agency. (If you've seen Bell, you're saying, 'Sixty bucks a month for the Redevelopment Agency -- they got what they paid for.') Anyway, that small stipend was then padded with $1,574.65 monthly for sitting on each of the numerous boards and commissions.

But they rarely met. For instance: Bell's Surplus Property Authority, for example, met once between January 2007 and July 2010, according to city minutes. The Public Finance Authority met only three times during that period. The Housing Authority met four times in 2008. And the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority has not met since January 2005.

David Demerjian of the D.A.'s Public Integrity Division told The Times the practice was illegal. "They got paid monthly for being board and commission members," he said. "These other boards and commissions are designed for self-enrichment."

That's really not what you want to hear if you're on the Bell City Council and fear you might be the target of a criminal investigation. Teresa Jacobo said she didn't know they were getting paid for the no-show work and thought her pay was from council duties. Councilman Luis Artiga also claimed ignorance. Which is actually not that unbelievable. Robert Rizzo, the wizard of Bell who had been making nearly $800,000 in pay -- and nearly as much in benefits -- as city manager when he resigned last month, was running the place, and seemingly handing out checks to keep control.

The question is whether prosecutors want to take them all down, or just use council members to get to Rizzo.


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