Celebration sweeped Bell, CA this afternoon as the city's mayor and seven other current and former city leaders were carried away in handcuffs for corruption charges. Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez, 63, former city manager Robert Rizzo, 56, and six others, two of them still elected members of the City Council, are charged with misappropriating more than $5.5 million in taxpayer money, including unapproved loans to themselves and others and taking allegedly fraudulent payments for phony committee meetings with funds taken from the treasury.
Rizzo, held under $3.2 million bail, was being paid an annual salary and benefits package totaling more than $1.5 million and was the "unaccountable czar" of Bell, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said. Using taxpayers money to pay enormous salaries and perks while the cities townspeople are all blue collar hardworking lower to mid level people. This guy has some nerve.
Quotes regarding this scandal:
State Controller John Chiang said his audit found the city "had almost no accounting controls — no checks or balances — and the general fund was run like a petty-cash drawer."
"It's euphoria right now," says Danny Harber, 66, who on Wednesday was still enjoying accounts of the police sweep a day earlier that rounded up the officials on corruption charges.
"There's a lot of jubilation," said Cristina Garcia, 33, a math and statistics teacher who has been helping organize the recall campaign. "They've been waiting to see these people in handcuffs."
Interim City Manager Pedro Carrillo, who requested the audit in July following disclosure of high salaries by the Los Angeles Times, said the findings are "shocking and detail actions that are reprehensible beyond words."
"We're glad these people got arrested. I think they got what they deserved," says Ben Gomez, 81, a retired federal worker. Gomez laughed at recalling the sight of Rizzo being led in handcuffs out of his luxury home in Huntington Beach, a more affluent community in Orange County. A news photo of that scene had been enlarged and turned into a poster, with the word "Justice!"