E-mail evidence in Bell, California, salary scandal surfaces

Protesters outside Bell, Calif., City Hall. The 2009 city administrator salary scandal marred the public trust.

City administrators may have damaged the trust of the people of Bell, Calif., beyond repair. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/Wizard of Baum)

City administrators abusing the public trust has been an unfortunate theme in Bell, Calif. The 2009 salary scandal that shook the city’s coffers has been under investigation for some time, and it is only now that some of the e-mails Bell administrators sent among themselves have become public. As the Los Angeles Times reports, there was a great deal of dirty talk behind all the dirty money.

‘Pigs get fat,’ writes the Bell, Calif., police chief

An e-mail from then-Bell Police Chief Randy Adams to Assistant Bell City Administrator Angela Spaccia makes reference to taking city money:

“I am looking forward to seeing you and taking all of Bell’s money,” writes Adams. “Okay … just a share of it!”

In a separate e-mail, Spaccia writes:

“LOL … well you can take your share of the pie … just like us! We will all get fat together.”

What follows that damning pronouncement is a reference to City Administrator Robert Rizzo:

“Pigs get Fat ….. Hogs get slaughtered! So long as we’re not Hogs … All is well!”

The entirety of these e-mails from Bell, Calif., city officials is included in the prosecution’s case against eight current and former Bell city administrators. They are accused of giving themselves massively inflated salaries by looting the Bell city treasury, as well as serving on the boards of alleged public utilities whose only real purpose was to mask the stream of income.

Pay period ambiguity

In order to mask the highly irregular salaries, ambiguous wording was included in Adams’ employment contract. Specifically, the term “pay period” is not fully defined. In an e-mail Spaccia sent to Adams, she explains that this was deliberate “in order to protect from someone taking the time to add up” the salary.

Randy Adams was paid more than $400,000 as Bell’s police chief, a salary that was significantly higher than those of the Los Angeles and New York City police commissioners.

Rizzo allegedly doctored public salary records

Bell city clerk Rebecca Valdez testified in a Los Angeles court that when Bell resident Roger Ramirez asked for the public record of the city administrators’ salaries, she was ordered by Rizzo to provide a falsified document listing much lower salary totals, 10 times less or more. These documents reportedly bore the signature of Mayor Oscar Hernandez, whom Valdez claims does not read English well.


Bloomberg Businessweek

Los Angeles Times

Then-California Attorney General Jerry Brown on the Bell case

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