Ho-Hum, a City Official Busted in Surf City
Hell, that's not news, that's just another day in Surf City, you're probably saying to yourself. (Ah, ex-mayors Garofalo and Houchen, how we miss you so!)
However, this time the busted city official merely resides in Huntington Beach. It was none other than that lovable lug Robert Rizzo, former city manager of Bell and the wide, bloated face of out-of-control, piggy-at-the-trough public spending.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, who wants to be your next California attorney general, ordered the arrest of Rizzo, who made nearly $800,000 a year as tiny Bell's top administrator, and seven others tied to the scandal.
Rizzo was handcuffed and led out of his luxurious Huntington Beach home and into a less-luxurious black SUV. Others snared in the sweep were former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia; Mayor Oscar Hernandez; council members Luis Artiga, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal; and former councilmen George Cole and Victor Bello.
Cooley's DA office is not the only government agency investigating Bell and its current and former leaders. State Attorney General Jerry Brown, who wants to be your next California governor (again), has also appeared before news cameras and microphones to announce a wide-ranging Bell probe. The feds are also piling on because all levels of government could use some easy scores these days.
The Los Angeles Times reported last month that Rizzo was set to earn more than $1.5 million in 2010, and that he doled out loans totaling $1.6 million to more than 50 city officials, including himself. Being overpaid is not a crime, Cooley noted, but misappropriation of $5.5 million in public funds is. That's what LA's DA has accused Rizzo and the other officials of having done. Council members who earned salaries of nearly $100,000 received $1.2 million for "phantom meetings" that either did not exist or lasted only a minute or two, Cooley claimed.
"This is corruption on steroids," he said.
Rizzo has been charged with 53 counts of misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest. His bail has been set at $3.2 million.
How he managed to get hired away by Bell rather than the town he lives in remains a mystery.