American Morning

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July 27th, 2010
11:00 AM ET

Anger at California officials spreads

Ten-year-old Briana Esqueda holds a protest placard on July 26, 2010 in Bell, California. (Getty Images)

(CNN) – More heads are rolling in Bell, California where local officials in the blue-collar town were paying themselves insanely large salaries. So far, the city manager, assistant city manager and police chief have resigned. Those three officials, combined, were making $1.6 million a year. Now, the city council is slashing its pay and the mayor is finishing his term for free. Our Ted Rowlands has the latest. Watch Video

City council members in the small California town of Bell - where outrage over high salaries forced three officials to resign last week - voted Monday night to slash their pay.

And the mayor, who last week defended the salaries, said he would forgo a salary altogether and would not seek reelection.

But the move was not enough to appease angry residents who demanded that the council members step down.

"You all need to go to jail," a self-described underpaid teacher said at a contentious meeting Monday night. "Shame on you. All of you."

When Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo said she will slash her salary but hold on to office, the crowd booed loudly and repeatedly.

"If you don't want to resign, we'll recall you," said one man.

The city council voted to reduce its pay to that of what one councilman, Lorenzo Veles, was being paid: $8,076 a year.

Most of the other council members made nearly 10 times as much.

The Bell salaries have provoked statewide anger at a time when California is grappling with a near $20 billion budget deficit.

The median annual income of Bell - which counted about 36,000 residents in the 2000 census - is less than $35,000.

Like Mayor Oscar Hernandez, another councilman George Mirabal said he will not seek reelection.

Said the mayor in a statement: "We must restore Bell's pride in our city and that requires a full, transparent, and deliberate review of the city's actions."

Last week, the city council accepted the resignations of City Manager Robert Rizzo, Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, and Police Chief Randy Adams, who reportedly had a combined salary of more than $1.6 million.

Also on Monday, California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who is running for governor, said he subpoenaed hundreds of records from Bell as part of an investigation to determine whether civil or criminal action should be taken against any city leaders.

Brown said most city council members are paid some $100,000 for their part-time positions, citing the Los Angeles Times - which initially reported on the salaries.

"These outrageous pay practices are an insult to the hard-working people of Bell and have provoked righteous indignation in California and even across the country," said Brown.

He added his office will review salaries in other jurisdictions around the state to see whether similar abuses might be happening elsewhere.

Filed under: Controversy • Politics
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Joe


    There is nothing that the people can do. Laws have not been broken. The people will get their pensions with cost of living increases. In CA, with the 3-50 pension rule, you can make hugh amounts of pension money. The people there will be on the hook and have tax increases for years to pay for the pensions.

    I have no sympathy. Companies there should leave.

    August 2, 2010 at 10:05 am |
  2. BonesCDXX

    Are not public officials salaries a matter of public record in this town? And yet it took the reporting of an out-of-town newspaper to bring this matter to light? A hefty share of the shame and blame should be bourne by the "outraged"citizens of this good town.

    July 28, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
  3. Truth

    So many facts left out CNN…guess that’s why you’re getting wiped up and down the floor by “other news programs” and will continue to lose until you start report the full facts of stories, and not just what you want people to hear.

    July 28, 2010 at 9:36 am |
  4. JeLo34275

    These "politicians" should all be arrested and kept in jail until they've repaid to taxpayers all the money they've stolen.

    July 28, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  5. Lori

    Never in a million years would I have believed that something like this could happen legally!!! I heard on CNN that these officials voted behind closed doors to award there selves these outlandish salaries. When the Government or the State want to go after you they find a way to charge you with something, and that had better happen in this case. These public servants should not be able to walk away with that money that didn't belong to them and they have to be punished they knew what they were doing was wrong. The State should sue each and every one of these idiots, they should have to give back the amount of money that was over and above the amount they were suppose to be making. And hopefully this town will get the rule changed in their town that allows public officials to vote their own salaries behind closed doors.

    July 28, 2010 at 7:57 am |
  6. chillipepper

    I hope the far left won't label these angry citizens violent anti government racists. Because these citizens are doing what the Tea Party stands for. Deal with corruption in government and bad govenment policies

    July 28, 2010 at 7:34 am |
  7. Jim Carroll internetfreepress

    Why will CNN News Not discuss the third way to manage the National Debt?

    July 28, 2010 at 7:23 am |
  8. Lafenmom

    How aren't public salaries public information?

    If you let these thieves resign, do they get to keep their equally-stolen retirement?

    July 27, 2010 at 10:23 pm |

    washington politicos will be the next people to go!!

    July 27, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
  10. teresa pena

    This incredible salaries exist all over.Goverment officials retire with large digit salaries and then run for other office positions, and also
    become independent contractors. Most citizens are not aware they
    put them in office because they carry the title, not realizing that thing
    they call double dipping..Oh,goodness there is no end....

    July 27, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
  11. pulpcowboy

    The voters didn't show up at the polls and are now griping about what happened. Kudos to the intelligent politicians who got one over on them!

    July 27, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
  12. Saleyman

    I bet if these corrupt politicians were Republicans, that would be noted. How come no mention of party affiliation? Well, that is because they are Democrats. Democrat politicians appeal to the masses by saying they will take care of the little guy. There is too much mounting evidence around the country that this is not true. Rangel in the House, the mayor of Detroit, good old Blago and the list goes on. Many Democrat office holders see their positions as a license to steal! Can we all say hypocrites?

    July 27, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  13. Betty Boydston

    Why is no one held accountable in these small cities. I think they all need to give an accounting of their monies...sounds like there are no watchdogs in that state!

    July 27, 2010 at 11:43 am |
  14. chuck

    How many before them did the same thing and boy i bet they all fell pretty silly now. One more thing, If they got away with that what other things have they got away with..............

    July 27, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  15. HernandezUSA

    Thats what happens when you let "LA RAZA" take over a city.....TOTAL CORRUPTION!

    July 27, 2010 at 11:03 am |