Friday, July 23

Impressively Brazen

It's always fascinating when someone does something really outrageous, and then has the temerity to be completely unapologetic. Today's news story about the insanely high salaries of three officials in the small California city of Bell is a great example:

A defiant Bell City Council defended the hefty compensation awarded to City Manager Robert Rizzo and two other officials just hours after the three agreed to resign amid a public outcry.

In the city's first formal statement on the salary issue, Bell released a letter from Mayor Oscar Hernandez in which he praised Rizzo's service to the city and said his nearly $800,000 annual salary was justified.

"Unlike the skewed view of the facts, the Los Angeles Times presented to advance the paper's own agenda, a look at the big picture of city compensation shows that salaries of the City Manager and other top city staff have been in line with similar positions over the period of their tenure," Hernandez said in the letter.

Hernandez did address the outrage generated after The Times revealed the salaries last week, adding: "We recognize that today's economic climate and the financial hardships so many families are suffering put our past compensation decisions in a new light. To the residents of Bell, we apologize."

As part of the resignations, Rizzo, Police Chief Randy Adams and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia will not receive severance packages. Rizzo will step down at the end of August and Spaccia will leave at the end of September. Adams also will leave at the end of August after completing an evaluation of the Police Department. Rizzo earns nearly $800,000 a year, believed to make him the highest-paid city manager in California and possibly the nation. Adams makes $457,000 -- 50% more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck -- and Spaccia makes $376,288, more than the top administrator for Los Angeles County.

I remember how here in Seattle, the similarly high salary of (former) UW President Mark Emmert was a source of contention--but at least the UW drew in massive amounts of money from research grants and athletics, and managed two hospitals in Seattle.

Here are a few facts about Bell, California (from Wikipedia):
As of the census of 2000, there were 36,664 people, 8,918 households, and 7,615 families residing in the city. The median income for a household in the city was $29,946, and the median income for a family was $30,504. Males had a median income of $22,596 versus $17,025 for females. The per capita income for the city was $9,905. About 21.2% of families and 24.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.7% of those under age 18 and 16.7% of those age 65 or over.

And some facts about the City Manager:
Council members hired Rizzo in 1993 from the High Desert city of Hesperia as interim chief administrative officer with a starting salary of $72,000 a year. By September 2004, he was being paid $300,000 a year. Ten months later, his salary jumped 47% to $442,000.

His salary continued climbing $52,000 a year until July 1, 2008, when Rizzo received his usual salary increase and signed an addendum to his contract that gave him a 5% raise in September and guaranteed 12% increases each July.

His last raise was $84,389.76. Next July, he will receive a $94,516 pay hike [this story is from before he got fired].

Rizzo defended his salary and that of his staff and the council by saying they don't receive car or cellphone allowances and must pay their own way to out-of-town conferences.

However, according to their contracts, Rizzo, Spaccia and Adams can be reimbursed for their expenses. Bell council members are also eligible for reimbursements as board members of several city commissions, according to city resolutions.

Obviously, Rizzo and his compatriots really hit a gold mine in Bell (a gold bell?), and ran with it. Nice work if you can get it! I'm really impressed with the cell phone and car expense defense--that takes a lot of cojones in a town where the median household income is under $30,000, and most of those people are probably paying for cell phones and cars.

1 comment:

  1. Alejandro de HoyosJuly 30, 2010 at 2:34 PM

    I like the Uncle Scrooge picture.