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2 Bell administrators step down, third takes large pay cut

The city's administrative services director agrees to a 61% pay reduction — to $165,000 a year from $422,707. 'We're looking at all high salaries,' the interim city manager says.

October 10, 2010|By Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times

As officials try to reel in the salaries of the highest paid City Hall workers in Bell, two top city administrators have stepped down and a third has agreed to a 61% pay cut.

The high City Hall salaries in the small, working-class city southeast of downtown Los Angeles have drawn criticism across the state since they were reported by The Times in July.

The city's three top administrators — City Administrator Robert Rizzo, Police Chief Randy Adams and Assistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia — stepped down and four of the five City Council members agreed to take a 90% pay cut. All but one council member was making about $100,000 a year for part-time work. Rizzo was the highest paid, set to make more than $1.5 million in total compensation this year.

"It's what I said from Day One," said interim City Manager Pedro Carrillo. "We're looking at all high salaries of city employees."

The city's director of administrative services, Lourdes Garcia, who was making $422,707 a year, has agreed to take a 61% pay cut, bringing her compensation in salary and benefits to $165,000 a year, city officials said.

Deputy Engineer Luis Ramirez, who was being paid $247,573 a year, and Annette Peretz, the director of community services who was earning $273,542, have retired, Carrillo said. Neither received a severance package, he added.

Despite the reduction in pay or departures of the administrators, they would still be eligible to receive retirement benefits based on their highest annual salaries through the California Public Employees' Retirement System.

Meanwhile, two other top administrators, Eric Eggena, director of general services, who makes $421,402 a year, and Ricardo Gonzalez, the business development coordinator, who earns nearly $200,000, remain employed with the city. Carrillo said he could not comment on the two administrators but that he was taking direct action against all city employees with high salaries.

The recent retirements and pay cut come after Carrillo made the salaries of city employees public following a new reporting requirement by state Controller John Chiang.

In early August, the controller's office directed all cities and counties to post the salaries of employees after The Times reported on the salaries of Bell's top administrators and council members. That same month, Carrillo announced that the city would launch a study of salaries to make sure they were commensurate with experience and job responsibilities.

"We will take some very firm and bold moves," Carrillo said then. "It could mean termination or reduction."

A proposed memorandum of understanding issued last week by state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown also clamps down on payments to former administrators and council members named in a lawsuit his office filed.

It would require Bell to end its supplemental retirement plan, which, in addition to the pension from the state retirement system, gives non-police city employees perhaps the best public pensions in California.

It also would prohibit Bell from making payments from the plan to any defendant named in the lawsuit. Former Councilman George Cole receives about $80,000 annually from the supplemental plan and the state retirement system, according to Times calculations.

Times staff writer Jeff Gottlieb contributed to this report.

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