Skip to main content

Anger at high pay for California officials spreads

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
Anger over excessive salaries
  • NEW: The mayor announces he will work without pay for the rest of his term
  • The city manager reportedly earned nearly $800,000 per year
  • California's attorney general subpoenas the city of Bell for salary, employment records
  • Local activists want the mayor, councilmen to resign

(CNN) -- In response to public outcry at city officials' high salaries, the Bell, California, mayor on Monday announced he will finish his term working without pay and will not seek re-election.

"While I will not be seeking a new term as Mayor, I would not be fulfilling my responsibilities as Mayor without working every day to ensure our essential city functions -- from safe streets and neighborhoods to children and senior services and our food bank -- continue to meet our city's needs," Mayor Oscar Hernandez said in a statement.

"We must restore Bell's pride in our City and that requires a full, transparent, and deliberate review of the City's actions."

Residents of Bell, a small city in California where outrage over high salaries forced three officials to resign last week, are expected to face off with their elected leaders at a Monday meeting in which they will demand more people step down, including Hernandez.

The high salaries dwarf those of people in comparable positions in the nearby, and much larger, city of Los Angeles. First reported by the Los Angeles Times, the Bell salaries have sparked statewide outrage at a time California is grappling with a near $20 billion budget deficit.

Bell's city council accepted the resignations last week of City Manager Robert Rizzo, Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, and Police Chief Randy Adams, who reportedly had a combined salary of more than $1.6 million.

But residents of Bell, which counted about 36,000 residents in the 2000 census and where the median annual income is less than $35,000, say more heads should roll.

Cristina Garcia, a founding member of BASTA, the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, or "enough" in Spanish, said she expected several thousand community members to show up for a Monday meeting of the city council.

BASTA is demanding the resignations of Mayor Hernandez, Vice Mayor Teresa Jacobo, and city council members George Mirabal and Luis Artiga. Calls to the Bell city council for comment were not immediately returned.

"For the most part, we trust our government. You trust that things are getting done. And I think they took advantage of that," said Garcia about members of Bell's city council. "People are angry and they're going to come out and be heard."

Also on Monday, California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who is running for governor, said he subpoenaed hundreds of records from the city of Bell as part of an investigation to determine whether civil or criminal action should be taken against any city leaders.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Rizzo had an annual salary of nearly $800,000 a year, which the paper said would make him the highest-paid city manager in the state.

Citing the newspaper, Brown said Adams had an annual salary of $457,000 and Spaccia received $376,288 a year. He added most city council members are paid some $100,000 for their part-time positions.

"These outrageous pay practices are an insult to the hard-working people of Bell and have provoked righteous indignation in California and even across the country," said Brown.

He added his office will review salaries in other jurisdictions around the state to see whether similar abuses might be happening elsewhere.