In his Aug. 11 Times Op-Ed article, " City of Bell salaries: Robert Rizzo is only a symptom," Ben Boychuk confronts the wrong end of the beast. He tips us off to his bias by repeatedly flogging the crusty cliche "unelected bureaucrats," on whom he blames the current crisis in state and local government. He then twists logic into a knot by using these specious assertions as a pretext for removing regulations to solve the problem. Huh?
Bell's scandal over high salaries for its top officials did not arise because too many regulations and statutes exist. It came about because of lack of interest among the city's residents, combined with little news coverage, allowed the culprits to do their work in the shadows. If regulations and statutes were involved in any way, it was not their existence, but the failure to observe them, that contributed to the problem.
And who are those culprits? Boychuk blames public agency employees, empowered by reforms that, he alleges, "shifted authority and accountability from voters and elected officials to unelected bureaucrats." This is utter nonsense. Every public employee in California is ultimately accountable to someone elected by the voters: the Legislature, a city council, a special district board of directors and other bodies. These elected officials have the authority, accountability and responsibility to establish the policies under which public employees act. Those put in office by the voters must, and can, ensure that employees' actions do not veer from serving the public to serving themselves.
The vast majority of public employees in California work diligently on behalf of their agencies, at a level of pay below that paid by private industry. To inflate a few exceptions to build a case for amending the state Constitution, as Bochum does, is to plant a balloon on a needle point.
Yes, we must prevent future Bells. But we will not succeed in doing this unless we focus on the real source of the problem: elected officials who go out of control, and the voters who allow them to continue doing so.
Bob Niccum, a member of the Buena Park Library District's board of trustees, has been an elected official in Orange County since 1985.