When District Attorney Steve Cooley filed corruption charges against eight Bell officials last week, one man was notably absent from the perp walk. Former Police Chief Randy Adams was not charged, though he was Bell's second-highest paid official with a salary of $457,000.
Now, the Bell Police Officers Association is calling on Attorney General Jerry Brown to make sure that Adams does not escape prosecution thanks to his long ties to Cooley.
“That's a concern to us,” said Kurt Owens, vice president of the police union. “Basically what we did was to say, 'Is somebody checking to see that these guys are going to play fair?'”
Cooley has declined to turn the investigation of Adams over to another agency, saying he and the disgraced chief are not friends.
“I've never been to his home,” Cooley told the L.A. Times. “We do not socialize. It's a professional acquaintanceship.”
The L.A. Times has reported that Adams arranged with former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo to have himself declared disabled when he was hired, which would get him a tax break on his pension benefits. Those who knew Adams have questioned whether he was actually disabled. Cooley has vowed to stay out of the decision on whether to prosecute Adams.
Two members of the Bell police union brought the high salaries of top city officials to the attention of the D.A.'s office in April 2009. The office opened an investigation into Bell in May 2009, but the scandal did not become public until more than a year later, when the D.A.'s office tipped off the Times.
Cooley is running for attorney general. The arrests in Bell were made only six weeks before the November election, causing some — including Rizzo's lawyer — to question whether they were timed for political reasons. Cooley has denied that charge.
Adams is up to his neck in the scandal, having been sued recently by Attorney General Jerry Brown for fraud, negligence and waste of public funds. So Bell's police union officials — who clashed repeatedly with Adams over his year-long tenure — were surprised that Cooley did not charge Adams.
“If any criminal wrongdoing is found, we hope they follow the law and make an arrest if appropriate,” Owens said.
Cooley was asked about his relationship with Adams back in July, shortly after the salary scandal first broke. On Tim Conway Jr.'s radio show on KFI, Cooley said he had known Adams for about 15 years.
“Randy Adams was a well-regarded chief of police in Simi Valley Police Department,” Cooley said. “That's where I first met him… He was in Glendale for several years, and he also served quite competently and effectively as president of the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association.”
Cooley appeared at a January 2007 Glendale City Council meeting to congratulate Adams on completing his year as head of the organization.
“Los Angeles County is better for that organization, and it's better because it was led by Randy Adams this past year,” Cooley said. “Congratulations, Randy.”
At the meeting, Cooley praised Adams' “tremendous leadership” in the
investigation of the 2005 Metrolink disaster that killed 11 people.
On behalf of the Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles County, Cooley also presented the President's Award to Adams at a ceremony in 2008. A picture of Cooley presenting the award is featured on the organization's website.