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3 former Bell administrators won't collect pensions until California clears them

'CalPERS is concerned,' an official says. If approved, payouts for the administrators would be more than $1 million a year.

July 29, 2010|By Marc Lifsher and Jeff Gottlieb, Los Angeles Times

Three highly paid administrators in Bell will not be permitted to draw their state pensions until the state attorney general determines whether the city broke the law in awarding the hefty paychecks.

"CalPERS is concerned about the situation and our intention is to not entertain applications for pensions from any of these people until the investigation is complete," said Pat Macht, external affairs director for the California Public Employees' Retirement System.

The Times reported earlier this month that the city's top officials received some of the highest municipal wages in the nation.

City Manager Robert Rizzo made $787,637 a year, almost twice the salary of President Obama; Police Chief Randy Adams made $457,000, 50% more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck; and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia made $376,288, more than the top administrator for Los Angeles County.

All three resigned last week in the face of mounting anger in the small working-class city southeast of downtown Los Angeles.

In retirement, Rizzo would become the highest-paid retiree in CalPERS, the state's massive pension system. He would earn more than $600,000 a year for the rest of his life, according to calculations made by The Times and reviewed by pension experts.

Adams, who would receive an estimated $411,000, would be the third-highest-paid.

"CalPERS is working closely with the attorney general on this matter, and not a dollar will be paid until we have the full and complete picture," Macht said.

None of the former administrators has filed paperwork to collect pensions. Though she resigned her position in Bell, Spaccia continues to work as the interim city manager of neighboring Maywood.

On Tuesday, Bell turned over several documents to the state attorney general's office to comply with a subpoena, a spokesman for the office said.

Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown issued the subpoena Monday, seeking hundreds of salary and employment documents from the city to determine whether top officials broke laws in awarding high salaries. Brown, who is running for governor, also sought e-mails, employment contracts for the city's top three administrators, City Council resolutions related to compensation and minutes from certain council meetings.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office is also investigating Bell officials to determine if there were improper salaries, conflicts of interest or voter fraud.

Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley also said investigators were looking at whether council members had received pay for meetings they did not attend or meetings that lasted only a few minutes. Until they slashed their pay this week, four of the five council members were receiving nearly $100,000 a year for their part-time work.

Times staff writer Catherine Saillant contributed to this report.

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