- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

BELL, Calif. (AP) — The City Council of this tiny blue-collar Los Angeles suburb voted to slash its bloated salaries, but some residents suggested nothing short of a totally cleaned house would appease their anger.

Under pressure from furious Bell community members, council members on Monday voted to cut their own salaries by 90 percent and two said they would not seek re-election when their terms end.

The council voted unanimously to set every member’s salary at what Councilman Lorenzo Velez is paid – about $8,000 a year.

Four of the five council members were getting paid nearly $100,000 for their part-time jobs. Other officials were getting paid far more and the city manager, who made nearly $800,000, has already resigned. California Attorney General Jerry Brown on Monday revealed he had subpoenaed hundreds of city records.

Hundreds of residents packed the community center on Monday to assail council members who listened to more than five hours of public comment. After the council announced its decision to cut its salaries, dozens of people waited for hours to vent their anger. Many demanded the council resign immediately.

“I can never, ever, forgive you,” an emotional Marcelino Ceja shouted at the council members, who sat grim faced through the noisy public comment. “You need to resign today.”

Vice Mayor Teresa Jacobo was defiant in saying she would not resign and that she would “stand by my people.”

“How dare you try to take a penny more from our pockets,” responded Raquel McLafferty, an 11-year-resident of Bell. “Do the city a favor, we don’t want you here and we are not your people.”

Bell’s city manager, police chief and assistant city manager all resigned last week after it was revealed they were making salaries totaling $1.6 million a year.

The six-figure salaries at City Hall have prompted investigations by the state attorney general and the Los Angeles County district attorney.

“We ask that you leave and give us our city back,” said Alfredo Ruvalcaba, a 27-year-old college student. “I am here on behalf of my parents, who couldn’t make it here today because they have to work to pay your salaries.”

Last week, Mayor Oscar Hernandez defended the salaries of the city manager and other staff as being in line with similar positions in other jurisdictions. He also noted the city had achieved 15 years of balanced budgets.

On Monday, however, Mr. Hernandez said he would take no salary for the rest of his term and apologized for the excessive pay given to top officials.

Mr. Brown, a candidate for governor, said he had demanded to see employment contracts within two days to determine whether to file any charges.

The grass-roots Bell Association to Stop the Abuse had threatened to recall the council members if they didn’t resign or slash their own pay.

The salaries exploded into public view after a Los Angeles Times investigation, based on California Public Records Act requests, showed the city payroll was bloated with six-figure salaries:

— Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo made $787,637 a year, getting a series of raises since being hired in 1993 at $72,000. President Barack Obama makes $400,000.

— Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia made $376,288 a year.

— Police Chief Randy Adams earned $457,000 — $150,000 more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.

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