Huffpost Los Angeles

Robert Rizzo's Salary Package Topped $1.5 Million

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LOS ANGELES — California's attorney general subpoenaed nine present and past Bell city officials Monday, ordering them to turn over their financial records and undergo questioning under oath in a widening investigation into a salary scandal.

"When city employees of a tiny suburb of L.A. make as much as or nearly double the salary of the president of the United States, things are out of control," Attorney General Jerry Brown said in a statement.

Brown's office ordered the officials to turn over records related to their pay and pension benefits, gifts they received or gave, tax returns, bank accounts and outside business interests.

They also were ordered to give depositions to state lawyers beginning Aug. 19, according to a statement from Brown's office.

In addition, the city itself was told to produce records relating to a law firm that formerly handled city business.

The identities of the officials under scrutiny were not disclosed but were likely to include highly paid City Council members and several officials who left after details surfaced regarding the sizable salaries they earned to govern Bell, a city of about 40,000 people that is one of the poorest in Los Angeles County.

Former city manager Robert Rizzo earned about $1.5 million a year in pay and benefits before resigning along with the assistant city manager and police chief in the face of public outcry.

Brown said at a news conference that his office had been trying to contact Rizzo without success.

"We have people serving subpoenas," Brown said.

Messages left by The Associated Press for Rizzo at his Huntington Beach home and his horse ranch in Washington state were not immediately returned.

The mayor and three council members who each earned nearly $100,000 a year recently agreed to slash their salaries by 90 percent.

Brown, a candidate for governor, previously subpoenaed hundreds of city records and has received hundreds of pages of documents. He also announced a toll-free hotline for people to report allegations of misconduct against Bell officials, including possible voter fraud.

"My office has received several reports from residents of Bell indicating that city officials encouraged them to fill out absentee ballots and then collected the ballots," Brown said.

Brown said his office wants to determine, among other things, whether there was any wrongdoing during a 2005 election that turned Bell into a charter city, exempting it from certain state limits on officials' salaries.

Fewer than 400 people voted in the election, and many of them filed absentee ballots.

A retired Bell police sergeant has filed a lawsuit claiming off-duty officers were recruited to distribute absentee ballots in last year's election and tell people which candidates to vote for.

State Controller John Chiang has said his office is launching an audit of city spending.

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Hotline number: (866) 625-4400.

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