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Ousted Bell police chief sues for severance pay

Randy Adams, one of the highest-paid public pensioners in California, says that, though pushed to, he never agreed to resign or to relinquish his severance.

August 02, 2012|By Jeff Gottlieb, Los Angeles Times
  • Former Bell Police Chief Randy Adams' lawsuit seeking severance pay engraged Bell officials.
Former Bell Police Chief Randy Adams' lawsuit seeking severance… (None, None )

The police chief who was ousted after it was revealed that he and other city leaders in Bell were drawing enormous salaries has sued his former employers for severance pay.

Randy Adams, who is now one of the highest-paid public pensioners in California, stopped working for the small, working-class city shortly after The Times revealed the high salaries paid to the former chief, as well as to Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo and Angela Spaccia, Rizzo's assistant.

Adams was paid $457,000 annually, one of the highest law enforcement salaries in the nation and nearly 50% more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck receives.

Adams said in his suit that, although city officials pushed him to agree to resign and give up the year's severance pay he was entitled to under his contract, he never agreed to resign or to relinquish his severance.

Adams is also suing Pedro Carrillo, the former interim city manager in Bell, saying he released false statements about Adams' compensation. As reported earlier by The Times, city records showed that when Adams' benefits were included, his total annual compensation was $770,046.

This is the second lawsuit Adams has filed against Bell. The first asks the city to pay his legal fees, amassed in part after he was named a defendant in a since-dismissed lawsuit filed by the state attorney general.

Officials in Bell said they were enraged by the lawsuit.

"Adams is just as … unscrupulous as Rizzo," Mayor Ali Saleh said. "This lawsuit is just another reminder of their complete disregard of Bell residents."

City Manager Doug Willmore called Adams' suit "the height of hypocrisy." He said the city plans to file a counterclaim against him "that will far exceed anything he is asking for."

"No longer can people like Randy Adams be able to extract more money from the pockets of the citizens of Bell," Willmore said. "That time is over."

Eight former Bell officials, led by Rizzo, have been charged with felonies in a case that prosecutors have described as "corruption on steroids." The financial fallout left the small Los Angeles County city on the cusp of insolvency.

The trial for the six council members, accused of being paid for being part of city commissions that seldom if ever met, has been set for January. Rizzo and Spaccia will be tried at a later date. All are free on bail.

Adams has not been charged, which has angered some city residents. At a hearing in December, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy also questioned why he wasn't charged. "I don't know why he is not a defendant in this case," she said.

Adams is an important player in some of the charges leveled against Rizzo and Spaccia. The two administrators are accused of trying to hide Adams' salary by dividing it into two contracts. If someone asked how much the chief was earning, prosecutors say, they would be shown a contract that showed Adams was making less than half his true salary.

According to grand jury testimony, the contracts were backdated a year, and the council never approved them.

The indictment also alleged that Spaccia and Rizzo hid an agreement allowing Adams to retire with a disability pension, which would have allowed him to avoid paying taxes on half his pension.

Adams is now one of the highest paid public pensioners in California, earning more than $22,000 a month.

jeff.gottlieb@latimes.com

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