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Since 2000, elected officials in neighboring cities such as South Gate, Bell Gardens and Huntington Park have been convicted of crimes such as embezzlement and election fraud.

That year also marked the election of District Attorney Steve Cooley, whose signature initiative at the time was the creation of a Public Integrity Division, aimed at cleaning up the systemic corruption that had taken root in that part of Los Angeles County.

The Bell saga has erupted just as Mr. Cooley is running for state attorney general, and as a number of state and federal probes are under way in neighboring cities.

In particular, officials in Bell and the bordering cities of Maywood and Cudahy have entangled municipal services in a manner that threatens the stability of an already troubled part of the most populous county in the United States.

In 2007, Maywood became the subject of local, state and federal investigations into police practices and suspicions of bribery and kickbacks involving a local tow-truck company. Since 2005, claims totaling more than $19 million — including wrongful death, false arrest, unlawful seizure, assault and rape — were submitted to the city’s insurance provider against Maywood police.

Last month, insurers canceled Maywood’s workers’ compensation and commercial policies, and the city was forced to disband the police and lay off almost its entire city staff.

Contract employees, including employees from Bell, were running the city under the direction of Ms. Spaccia, who went on leave from her job as Bell assistant city manager to act as interim city manager of Maywood. On Friday, she also resigned her position in Maywood. She could not be reached for comment.

In all, 70 Maywood employees were let go, said Magdalena Prado, director of community relations who also is a contract employee.

“We’re looking to identify a permanent city manager,” said Ms. Prado, who could not say exactly how many Bell employees are under contract in Maywood to perform such services as records management, finance and administration of parks and recreation. “It’s difficult because it is not appealing to come to a city with the insurance problems we have.”

“We’re between a rock and a hard place,” she said. “I’d hate to see others look to us as a model and lay off city staff. But we feel we’ve been successful so far as a contract city. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.”

With the Maywood Police disbanded, and with it approximately $7 million of the city’s $10 million annual budget saved, the city now contracts with the county sheriff’s department for police services for $3.5 million a year.

Next door to Maywood City Hall, where the Maywood police banner still hangs in the lobby, a handful of former city employees assisted the sheriff with the transfer of data on Wednesday.

One of those employees, Mayra Robles, said she has no title but that approximately six people have been retained to assist in the transition. She could not give the status of Maywood’s police claims and said the city clerk has no set hours. For now, Maywood is using Bell’s towing service for parking enforcement, she said. The two cities have the same city attorney, she added, who also works on a contract basis.

Before it was disbanded, Maywood police also served on a contract basis in nearby Cudahy, which also is now policed by the Los Angeles sheriff. Bell, Maywood and Cudahy contemplated pooling resources to form a tri-city police force, but that idea is shelved for now, officials say.

The L.A. District Attorney has largely deferred to an FBI corruption investigation in Cudahy in recent years, and law enforcers familiar with the matter say that probe is ongoing. A top prosecutor in the D.A.’s office recently confirmed that other agencies are continuing to investigate in Maywood.

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