Wednesday, according to the LA Times, city leaders from the small town of Bell, CA were arrested. And, although, cheers resounded through this tiny town’s streets as these sheisters were led away, it is doubtful there will be any celebrating from the 35,000 plus residents of the city from now on.
Former City Manager, Robert Rizzo, Former Assistant City Manager, Angela Spaccia, as well as Mayor, Oscar Hernandez and Luis Artiga a City Council Member were all charged with numerous-anywhere from 12 to 20 counts-of felony misappropriation of public funds.
The residents of the wee township still have to foot the bill for the above mentioned misappropriated funds. They also have to find it in their hearts to trust another group of city leaders to drag Bell out of deep doo doo.
This debacle didn’t happen overnight. In fact, says another front page LA Times article, Robert Rizzo “allegedly” shifted and lifted the public funds over a twenty year period. The investigation has now been extended to include the Bell Police Chief. Why it is coming out now?
James W. Spertus, Rizzo’s attorney isn’t shocked by his clients arrest. He believes that this is merely a campaign ploy by LA County District Attorney, Steve Cooley. Cooley is running for California Attorney General. Of course, Cooley denies any connection with the arrests and his campaign.
Even if Cooley’s actions are skewed toward bringing in the votes, his reasoning is based on a rising public outcry over the outrageous salaries and lavish pensions these city officials appropriated.
The story may seem out of the ordinary, however, there is something to be learned from the long standing pilfering that went on within the city government. Pay attention during election time!
Believe it or not, this reflects badly on everyone who reads about the shady leaders of Bell. If we all took a good hard look at our own city, I’m sure we would see that we have fallen asleep at the wheel. We shouldn’t have to babysit those who we elect into office, however, it might be wise to periodically check in to ensure that our choice was, indeed, correct.
The responsibility is with each and every one of us. We must manage our knowledge of local, state and federal politics, cast our nets far out into the media sea and gather information from a variety of sources. Right now, it looks as if-to further the fishing metaphor-we have foregone the nets for a rod and reel. A 2009 poll by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, found that a whopping 68% of American’s use television as their main source for local news. With such a narrow band of information coming in, it is virtually impossible to discern whether the news we receive is accurate and in whom to entrust our next term.
Bell is the most egregious case of misused public funds, however, how far away is any city from a public scandal?
The LA Times also confirmed that Bell is not alone in the bloated salary department. “A survey by state lawmakers shows that some municipalities make six-figure loans to officials to buy houses and provide benefits that more than double base pay.”
Perhaps, during this election period, it might serve us well to take a closer look at who is minding our tills and broaden our means of information. If each individual made a slightly greater effort towards informed political decisions, City Leaders-like those cads in Bell-wouldn’t stand a chance.