In light of Bell residents' recent outrage over the city's salaries, Downey's city council voted yesterday to sever ties with their city attorney Ed Lee and the firm Best, Best & Kreiger. The firm has represented Bell since the early 1990s, and the city of Downey seeks to distance themselves from any relationship to the corruption-riddled city. On Wednesday, city councilman and former Downey mayor Mario Guerra told The Downey Patriot: "To be put in the same breath is an embarrassment to our City staff, City Council and more importantly, to our citizens... We are a great, conservative and ethical city and any association with them and us is wrong and I resent it."
Separately, Guerra expressed his outrage about the Bell salary scandal to the Huffington Post: "It's obscene to get $100,000 for serving in the city council. It's obscene to get $700,000 or more as a city manager. I make $697.35 for serving in the city council." But he quipped, "I do get a really cool parking spot."
Guerra went on to compare other city salaries: "Our city manager makes $220,000 a year, and he's been here for 20 years. [Downey has] a $147 million budget versus Bell's $15 million budget." In contrast to Bell's police chief earning $457,000 a year, Guerra compared again: "our police chief earns $195,000 and manages over 200 people, versus 40 for the city of Bell. It's crazy."
When asked about what would increase transparency, Guerra pointed to local media coverage and open council meetings: "I believe in the power of the free media. Some cities don't have local papers. We have a local paper with about a 25,000 circulation. Anything that happens here comes out in the paper. Transparency -- the more people know, the more they will be involved."
Guerra added, "I'm glad that people are taking their city back," but also admits "I am surprised they did not do it sooner."