Trials & Litigation

Calif. AG Sues Officials of Small City Over Their Six-Figure Salaries

The California Attorney General’s Office is suing eight current and former officials of a small working-class city in Los Angeles County, alleging that they paid themselves huge salaries.

The suit, filed Wednesday, accuses the eight Bell, Calif., city officials, including the former city manager, the former police chief and three current city council members, of fraud, conspiracy and wasting taxpayers’ money, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

The suit also seeks the return of hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries and a reduction in benefits for the accused.

Residents of Bell, a poor, mostly Hispanic city of 38,000 about 10 miles southeast of Los Angeles, packed city council chambers in July after the Los Angeles Times disclosed how much city officials there were making, including the city manager, who is paid nearly $800,000 a year, and the police chief, who earns $457,000 annually. City council members make almost $100,000 a year for working part-time.

State Attorney General Jerry Brown, whose office filed the suit, called the salaries “enormous and obscene.” Brown also said his office is looking at other cities where officials’ salaries exceed $300,000, including the neighboring city of Vernon. The Times recently reported that the former administrator in Vernon, an industrial city with about 90 residents, was paid more than $1 million a year.

A lawyer for the former city manager of Bell told the AP his client believes he did nothing wrong. The lawyer said his client is only being sued because he went along with the salaries, which were approved by the city council and countersigned by the city attorney.

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