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In California, 3 who drew high salaries resign from posts

By the CNN Wire Staff
City manager Robert Rizzo was reportedly drawing an $800,000 annual salary in Bell, California.
City manager Robert Rizzo was reportedly drawing an $800,000 annual salary in Bell, California.
  • The state attorney general says the salaries are "beyond belief"
  • The Los Angeles Times reported that the city manager had a nearly $800,000 salary
  • The median yearly income in the town is under $35,000 a year

(CNN) -- Three officials in a Los Angeles suburb whose high salaries sparked statewide outrage will step down from their jobs, the city's mayor said Friday.

Oscar Hernandez, the mayor of Bell, California, said the City Council accepted the resignations 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. He added that the three will not get severance pay.

"Today, our city council took the quick and decisive action that is in the best interest of our city so that we may return our attention to delivering outstanding city services," the mayor said in a statement posted on the city clerk's website.

"We recognize that today's economic climate and the financial hardships so many families are suffering put our past compensation decisions in a new light. To the residents of Bell, we apologize. We are confident that your pride in our great city endures and that the city's financial health and superior public services demonstrate that our priorities remain intact."

But Hernandez also praised Rizzo and called the Los Angeles Times story and the resulting uproar that led to the resignations "unfair and unwarranted."

The salaries have infuriated many in California.

Jerry Brown, California's attorney general, issued a statement Thursday saying that his office had launched a investigation into the salaries.

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

Citing the newspaper, Brown's statement said Adams had an annual salary of $457,000 and Spaccia received $376,288 a year.

"Most city council members are paid nearly $100,000 for their part-time jobs," the attorney general said.

"These outrageous salaries in Bell are shocking and beyond belief," he said. "With record deficits and painful budget cuts facing California cities, astronomical local government salaries raise serious questions and demand a thorough investigation."

"It's shocking. How did they get it?" Cory Christ, a resident of the city, said to CNN affiliate KTLA. "They're making more than the president -- it's totally not fair,"

California Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, who represents the district that encompasses Bell, also voiced outrage.

"The city council salaries and the outrageous salaries for the staff have really riled up the community," he told CNN recently. "... It's a working class community. They're busy just trying to survive in this tough economic climate."

De La Torre said the median yearly income in the southern California town is under $35,000 a year.

"Just to put it in context, the general fund for the city of Bell is $15 million. So, Mr. Rizzo with his salary and compensation package, around $800,000 is about one-fifteenth of the budget for the city of Bell," De La Torre said.

"And Mr. Rizzo is obviously a little delusional about what the private sector would be (able) to pay anybody, certainly not $800,000. Certainly not double what the president of the United States" makes.

In his statement, Hernandez said the Times' "coverage and the contrived uproar the Times sought to provoke are unfair and unwarranted" and praised Rizzo.

Hernandez said the salaries "have been in line with similar positions over the period of their tenure" and that Rizzo gave the town 15 years of balanced budgets after a $20 million shortfall.

"While other cities are defaulting on their commitments, borrowing to maintain city services or even threatening bankruptcy, Bell has a healthy surplus that has enabled us to ride out the nation's fiscal storm and even expand services to meet the growing needs of our low-income residents through the city food bank and programs for youth and seniors.

"While other municipalities are shuttering their libraries and shutting down their parks and services, Bell's parents know their children have access to services and activities that keep them safe -- especially during the summer months when school is out and working parents are not at home during the day."

Hernandez appointed Pedro Carrillo, assistant to the city manager, to be the interim city manager.

"We acknowledge that the actions taken today are not a panacea, but a first step towards healing our city and getting back to business that ensures the safety and well-being of our residents," the mayor said.