But the mayor's office defended the spending as part of a larger, multi-year business district improvement project, saying that city residents had previously complained about shoddy or vandalized garbage cans that allowed trash to spill over. Placing Ravenstahl's name on the cans was a way to direct business owners to the proper local agency, and it was "something we felt was appropriate," Ravenstahl spokeswoman Joanna Doven told ABC News.
"Do your research, 'cause I did mine: You cannot find good quality garbage cans for under $1,000," Doven said. "We invested in our neighborhood business district by investing in garbage cans."
Bell, one of the lowest performing cities in Los Angeles County, paid its top officials exuberant salaries -- $800,000 to the city manager, $457,000 to the police chief and more than $787,000 to the chief administrative officer -- according to documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times in July.
The city initially defended the hefty paychecks, telling the newspaper that the city is one of the best in the region because of people like the city manager. Following a public outcry and emergency City Council meeting behind closed doors, the three high-paid officials resigned, though community activists continue to reel about the pension plans which some of the resigned officials will receive.
In response, Mayor Oscar Hernandez – who initially defended the salaries – volunteered to serve the remainder of his term without pay, and the City Council – which approved the salaries – voted to slash its pay by 90 percent.
The per capita income of the city of Bell is half that for the rest of the United States, and 2008 census data showed that 17 percent of the population lives in poverty. In the wake of the uproar, the attorney general has launched an investigation into the salaries, and the state controller's office ordered all cities and counties to report the salaries of all public employees and elected officials.