BELL, Calif., Sept. 5, 2010 -- The people of Bell, Calif., in southern Los Angeles County, are reeling at recent allegations of city official corruption.
While 17 percent of the suburb's 40,000 residents are living under the poverty line, former City Manager Robert Rizzo was making nearly $800,000 a year while on city payroll.
As if years of bilking Bell's taxpayers wasn't enough, Rizzo stands to earn $600,000 a year in retirement -- the highest pension for a public employee in the state of California.
Public outcry has led California Attorney General, Jerry Brown to take action.
"We have a case where hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money has been paid out under completely suspicious circumstance," Brown said.
Brown is heading an investigation into not only Rizzo's big payout, but the salaries of two other city officials.
Former Police Chief Randy Adams and former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia were also forced to resign along with Rizzo, after it was leaked by the Los Angeles Times that their annual salaries ran $457,000 and $376,288 respectively.
Residents have rallied city council members to take legal action against their high-rolling managers to get back millions of dollars of wasteful spending.
The city council itself was not exempt from corruption, with some of their part-time workers receiving almost $100,000 a year.
The Los Angeles Times also uncovered that Bell had the second highest property taxes in Los Angeles County and overcharged hundreds of thousands of dollars for sewage service.
This careless spending of taxpayer dollars certainly hurts the residents of Bell, a blue-collar city whose median household income is $40,556 a year.
"This is what has ravaged the city, because this city is poor and they don't know how to defend themselves," Bell resident Steven Brown said.
But the city is trying to fight back. In addition to the City Council announcing Friday its plans to subpoena the records of all overpaid managers, a spokesperson for the California Public Employees' Retirement Fund also confirmed its own investigation into former city officials' pension claims.
So far there have been no criminal charges filed. Rizzo has been ordered to appear before the city council on Sept. 20 to provide records of $400,000 in business loans made with taxpayer money without city approval.
His attorney is fighting California state government to hold onto his overinflated pension.
Bell now serves as a warning of corruption gone unchecked to other nearby Californian cities. There are currently similar investigations under way in the nearby towns of Vernon and Maywood.