Skip to main content

$2 million bail set for former California city manager

By the CNN Wire Staff
Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo has been ordered to wear an electronic monitoring system.
Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo has been ordered to wear an electronic monitoring system.
  • Robert Rizzo arrested last month in a case that district attorney calls "corruption on steroids"
  • Rizzo's last annual salary was more than $787,000, California's attorney general says
  • 8 Bell officials were arrested last month and face corruption-related charges

(CNN) -- A judge set bail at $2 million Wednesday for a former California city manager who was arrested last month and is facing criminal charges in a case that the Los Angeles County District Attorney has described "corruption on steroids."

The Los Angeles judge ordered former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo to wear an electronic monitoring system and to surrender his passport, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney's office.

Rizzo, along with four Bell City Council members, two former council members, and a former assistant city manager, were arrested in September and face charges that include misappropriation of funds, conflict of interest and making or receiving illegal loans.

Prosecutors allege the officials misappropriated more than $5.5 million, were paid for phantom council meetings and deliberately misled citizens about how much they were paid.

"They used the tax dollars collected from the hard-working citizens of Bell as their own piggy bank, which they looted at will," Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said at the time of the arrests.

Among the council members facing charges is Mayor Oscar Hernandez.

After one of the accused resigned his council post on Monday, a scheduled council meeting was canceled for lack of a quorum after only one member -- Lorenzo Velez, who is not facing charges -- showed up, CNN affiliate KTLA reported.

Two council members called in sick, the station said, while another was in jail.

Still, public comment at the meeting was allowed to proceed, KTLA said.

About 200 Bell residents were present, it said. Many of those who spoke were angry, and during the comment session, which stretched to more than two hours, some blamed interim City Manager Pedro Carrillo for not moving fast enough to restore the city, according to KTLA.

High salaries paid to officials of Bell sparked local outrage and national attention when they came to light in July.

Rizzo, former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia and Police Chief Randy Adams resigned after media reports that they were making several hundred thousand dollars a year each. Adams has not been charged.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who is running for governor in the state, has sued several of the former officials to recover the "excess salaries."

Rizzo's last annual salary was more than $787,000, according to Brown's office. Adams earned $457,000 and Spaccia received $336,000.

Before recently cutting their pay, Bell City Council members received $96,000 yearly, compared with $4,800 yearly for council members in similarly-sized cities, Brown said.

Bell, a town of about 36,000 in southeastern Los Angeles County, has a median household income of less than $35,000, according to census figures.

Rizzo's next court date, for his arraignment, is October 21.