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Former Bell city manager's compensation totaled $1.5 million a year, records show

August 07, 2010|By Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives | Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo, whose $787,000 salary prompted widespread outrage, received an unusually large package of benefits that increased his annual compensation to more than $1.5 million, according to city records reviewed by The Times.

Rizzo's benefits package -- which covers time off as well as retirement, medical and other types of insurance -- shows he was paid for time off that amounted to more than 20 weeks per year.

Bell's new interim city attorney said Saturday that Rizzo's compensation package raised serious questions and that the city planned to investigate who approved the perks and whether they were legal.

"It appears Rizzo was getting an inordinate amount of hours of vacation and sick benefits and being paid for it," said Jamie Casso of the law firm Meyers Nave. "We're looking to see when it was approved, whether it was approved at a City Council meeting and who approved it."

Compensation experts said Rizzo's compensation was far above the norm.

"This is extraordinary, it is outlandish and in absolutely no way represents" normal compensation for city managers, said Dave Mora, West Coast regional director of the International City/County Management Assn. and a retired city manager. "Extreme is a kind word."

The revelations come as both the L.A. district attorney's office and the California attorney general's officer are investigating high salaries received by Rizzo, other top Bell administrators as well as Bell City Council members, who earned nearly $100,000 a year before cutting their pay two weeks ago.

Details about Rizzo's full compensation are contained in city records requested by The Times under the California Public Records Act.

Rizzo did not return calls seeking comment.

The records say Rizzo was to receive $386,786 in paid vacation and sick benefits this year on top of his base salary. Casso said city officials were still trying to understand the compensation agreement. But the documents appear to show Rizzo was being paid for 107 vacation days and 36 sick days a year. The documents show the city paid $48,996 annually into Rizzo's deferred compensation plans.

Bell also paid $20,496 into Rizzo's 457 plan, which is similar to a 401(k) for government employees. According to Rizzo's contract, the city was to pay the full amount of his 457 plan in the first 10 days of the year, meaning he could benefit from an entire year of interest or investment gains.

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