Calling its former top administrator an embezzler who stole millions from the city treasury, the city of Bell on Wednesday took legal action against Robert Rizzo for unjust enrichment, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud.
The complaint seeks to have Rizzo return millions to the city.
"Robert Rizzo embezzled, stole, and misappropriated millions of dollars in city funds by obtaining grossly excessive and completely unwarranted compensation packages," the complaint alleges.
Rizzo, who was forced to resign in July after The Times revealed his lucrative salary, is one of eight people charged in a public corruption case by the Los Angeles County district attorney. Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown is also suing Rizzo and others for misappropriation of public money.
The cross-complaint was filed in response to a complaint filed by Rizzo last month seeking to be indemnified by the city. Jamie Casso, Bell's interim city attorney, said the city is seeking to have that request tossed out.
The complaint accuses Rizzo of fattening his paycheck by creating his own contracts, assigning portions of his salary to various agencies and — each year — cashing in approximately 107 days of vacation and 36 days of sick time at $304 an hour.
As a result, Rizzo was able to push his annual compensation to more than $1.1 million, the complaint says. The Times has reported that Rizzo's total compensation had reached $1.5 million by the time he was forced out.
Additionally, Rizzo attempted to conceal his salary by instructing city employees to release a memo to the public, Bell council members and the news media that falsely stated he was paid far less, the complaint said.
Rizzo's attorney, James Spertus, said the city's complaint was nothing more than a bunch of allegations with no proof. He said pursuing this case would be costly to the residents of Bell.
"It's a gross misuse of the judicial process and extremely inconsistent from what they have been saying in court," Spertus said. "They're asking the court to stay Mr. Rizzo's complaint against the city and at the same time asking to pursue its own claims. You can't have it both ways."