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City manager for whom the cash ‘Bell’ tolls

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POSTED July 20, 2010 2:30 a.m.
Is anybody worth $6.41 a minute?

Apparently the Bell City Council in Los Angeles County thinks so.

That is what they are paying their City Manager Robert Rizzo.

That translates into $800,000 a year. Toss in payroll taxes and benefits and you’re talking a cool million a year.

Rizzo - who is definitely not a candidate for Modest Public Servant of the Year - was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as saying, “If that (his salary) is a number people choke on, maybe I’m in the wrong business. I could go into private business and make that money. The council has compensated me for the job I’ve done.”

Rizzo has been city manager since 1993. He inherited a near bankrupt city. The council majority that embraces Bell’s annual 12 percent salary increases credits him for tripling the general fund, keeping streets clean, making sure the city had “lovely parks” and that the community has better lighting.

Bell Police Chief Randy Adams has an annual paycheck of $457,000 a year or twice what New York City’s Police commissioner is paid. Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia pockets $376,288 a year.

It might interest you to know that Bell is ranked as one of the poorest cities in Los Angeles County. Its estimated median income in 2008 was $39,394 compared to $59,921 for Manteca, and $61,021 for the State of California.

Of the population that is 25 years and over 35.1 percent have at high school diploma or higher (compared to 78.3 percent in Manteca) with 53.3 percent of the residents being foreign born (compared to 10.7 percent in Manteca.).

Manteca City Manager Steve Pinkerton, by the way, makes under $190,000 a year.

There are those who question Pinkerton’s salary which is roughly three to four times that of rank-and-file front-line municipal workers excluding police and firefighters who often make more than $100,000.

The Bell City manager makes 10 to 12 times the people who make the city work - parks workers, street maintenance, and such.

Obviously, the City of Bell can do anything they wish as long as the voters keep supporting candidates who have no qualms with the massive salaries.

It does beg a question about how a city manager making $800,000 a year in a poor community with 37,000 residents can call himself a “public servant.”

The city has a $15 million general fund and right off the top the police chief, city manager, and assistant city manager are pulling down a little over $1.6 million just in salary or almost 11 percent of the general fund budget. By comparison the same three positions in Manteca gross in salary just under $500,000 or just about 1.8 percent of Manteca’s nearly $30 million general fund.

The City of Bell can obviously do what it wishes although one has got to wonder how the skill sets it takes to run a city of 37,000 would translate into a private sector salary significantly higher than $800,000 in the private sector today as Rizzo claims he could command.

Come to think of it, the City of Bell is being run just like a big business.

The Economic Policy Institution’s study, “The State of Working America,” notes that the average chief executive officer in the United States in 2005 earned 262 times the pay of the average worker. That compares to 1965 when major company CEOs earned 24 times the average worker in their firms.

Maybe Goldman Sachs should consider hiring Rizzo as their next CEO.

He already displays a strong sense of self-entitlement and that it is him - and obviously him alone - that makes things work.
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