California City Officials Arrested in Salary Probe

Eight officials in the Southern California city of Bell were arrested in an investigation of high salaries that the managers of the Los Angeles suburb were reported to have paid themselves.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley announced the arrests today at a news conference.

The arrests follow Los Angeles Times reports that Robert Rizzo, Bell’s manager, earned almost $800,000 a year and that part-time City Council members took home almost $100,000 annually, mostly by serving on municipal boards and commissions. Rizzo and two other top officials have since resigned.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown sued Rizzo and seven other officials on Sept. 15, accusing them of wasting public funds, negligence, fraud, conflict of interest and breach fiduciary duty.

“This is not an arrest necessary to accomplish a law enforcement goal of bringing charges,” Rizzo’s attorney, James Spertus, said in a phone interview before the news conference. “This is an arrest done for political reasons because I have offered to facilitate Mr. Rizzo’s first appearance if it ever became necessary.”

Bell, located about 10 miles (16 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, has a largely Latino population of 38,000. The city’s latest annual report put per-capita income at $24,800 in 2008. Statewide, the figure was almost $42,700 that year, Bloomberg data show.

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