BELL, Calif. Residents in this modest blue-collar Los Angeles suburb where one in six lives in poverty were angry: Their city manager was getting paid more than President Barack Obama and the police chief more than the commander of the nearly 13,000-member LAPD.
They demanded and got the manager, the chief and another high-salaried official to resign.
They looked for the culprits and found them in the very people they entrusted to lead their city of 40,000 people. Now, theyre campaigning to boot them out of office.
Their mayor and three of their four council members, people they see every day at the grocery store or church, approved the contracts, and put an obscure measure on the ballot that allowed council members to pay themselves any amount of money.
And they did: collecting between $90,000 and $100,000 a year as part-time officials.
In Bell, however, not many people really paid attention. The city of mostly small homes is like many American cities and towns: No newspaper covers them regularly, and the residents spend what little free time they have with family and recreation.
The salaries exploded into public view last week after a Los Angeles Times investigation, based on California Public Records Act requests, showed that the city payroll was bloated with all sorts of six-figure salaries:
b Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo made $787,637 a year, getting a series of raises since being hired in 1993 at $72,000. President Obama makes $400,000.
b Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia made $376,288 a year.
b Police Chief Randy Adams earned $457,000. Hired just last year to oversee a force of fewer than 50 people, he was making 50 percent more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Becks $307,000.
All three Bell officials resigned Thursday.
To the residents of Bell, we apologize, Mayor Oscar Hernandez said.
Now, Hernandez and the council members may be next.
By law, the council would have had to approve the contracts in an open session, but several residents complained that officials are loathe to explain what they are doing and quick to race through matters at public meetings with little discussion.
The Times said Hernandez, Vice Mayor and Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo and Councilmen George Mirabal and Luis Artiga are paid $8,000 a year, plus about $8,000 a month for boards and commissions they sit on. The other council member, Lorenzo Velez, said he is only paid the base $8,000 salary.