Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: Glendale HomeCollectionsEthics

Think Again: For whom the Bell tolls

July 28, 2010

Over the last month, the drama in the city of Bell has been unfolding since the news on the extremely high salaries of certain city officials broke, among them Bell Police Chief Randy Adams, the former police chief in Glendale. The salaries ranged from $450,000 to $800,000 in a city of about 40,000 residents, located south of downtown Los Angeles.

In addition, four of the five city council members are getting paid close to $100,000 annually for sitting on various commissions, though they are technically part-time employees. The chief of the district attorney's Public Integrity Division, David Demerjian and Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown are looking into the situation.

Two things led to this. First, the city's leadership authorized a ballot measure for a special election that made Bell a "charter" city, allowing it to avoid a state law enacted that same year in 2005 that imposed salary caps for city councils. Only 400 of the city's 40,000 residents voted in that election, yet no public official saw an issue with this. The second factor was public apathy toward the city's affairs and city council decisions.

Advertisement

Thankfully, some Bell residents awakened the public into a revolt against these highly paid officials that led to the resignation of City Manager Robert Rizzo, Adams and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia. The story is not over, as some are calling for a recall of the city council.

The other part of this issue is who is going to pay for the retirement pensions of these individuals who resigned. According to the Los Angeles Times, Rizzo would be the highest-paid retiree in the state's CalPERS retirement system, technically entitled to more than $659,000 per year for the rest of his life. Funding city employee pensions are an increasingly controversial issue confronting cities as they try to make ends meet with their budget shortfalls.

There are several important lessons to be learned from the city of Bell. First, when public officials begin to step on ethics principles, the clock will run out on them sooner or later.

A common test in the public relations and ethics fields is when you ask the question, "Will this withstand the Los Angeles Times test?" In other words, if what you're doing were to be covered on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, would it lead to public outrage like it did with the city of Bell? Ethical behavior is your conduct when no one is watching.

Glendale News-Press Articles Glendale News-Press Articles
|
|
|