A huge corruption scheme in a tiny southern California city has resulted in the arrest of eight crooked officials—including the mayor and three council members—for stealing more than $5.5 million from taxpayers to give themselves exorbitant salaries and illegal “personal loans.”
Elected officials in Bell, a mostly Hispanic working class town of about 38,000, have long raided public coffers to enrich themselves and unscrupulously earn lucrative salaries for their part-time city gig. For instance, the city manager in the 2.5-square-mile Los Angeles County town paid himself $800,000 and each of the five council members earned nearly $100,000. Only one councilman hasn’t been arrested or charged, leaving local government paralyzed.
Announcing the Bell criminal charges this week, a showboating Los Angeles County prosecutor (Republican Steve Cooley) who’s running for state attorney general called it “corruption on steroids.” Bell officials used city funds as their “own piggy bank, which they looted at will,” Cooley said. The disgraced officials have been charged with more than 50 counts of misappropriating public funds and face decades in prison.
The big scandal in the little town broke over the summer when a local newspaper reported that, although its one of the county’s poorest cities, Bell pays its top officials some of the nation’s highest salaries. Besides the city manager’s preposterous $800,000 annual income, the story revealed, Bell’s police chief made $457,000, more than double New York City’s police commissioner and about 50% more than both the chief of police in the city of Los Angeles and the L.A. County sheriff.
Americans don’t like it when politicians and bureaucrats take money they’re not entitled to, which is why Judicial Watch has taken legal action against double-dipping public officials in California and Arizona. One lawsuit, on behalf of a citizen taxpayer, challenges the legality of about $21 million in extra compensation for Los Angeles County Superior Court judges. The other challenges the chief of police in Phoenix for illegally receiving about $90,000 a year in pension funds while still serving as the city’s top cop.