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Bruce Malkenhorst Should Thank Robert Rizzo

Posted by Larry Doyle on July 24, 2010 10:15 AM |

Bruce Malkenhorst must be a very happy man today and for that he should thank Robert Rizzo.

Who is Malkenhorst? Who is Rizzo? What is the story here?

Readers may recall that 14 months ago, Malkenhorst, a former municipal employee in Vernon, CA was exposed as the recipient of a sweet little ‘half million dollar pension’ connected to his duties in the bustling metropolis of Vernon, CA. How bustling? Vernon, a community in southern California, has a total population of approximately 100 citizens.

Malkenhorst and his cronies in Vernon singlehandedly redefined the concept of municipal fiscal abuse. I highlighted this story and accompanying unbelievable details a year ago in writing a story which an inordinate number of readers have reviewed entitled California’s $100, 000 Club.

This week, Malkenhorst and his pals in Vernon must have partied real hard and toasted Robert Rizzo all week long. Why is that?

In a story which truly defies almost every sense of decency and integrity in the realm of municipal finance today, we have recently learned that Rizzo and selected other public officials in the municipality of Bell, CA are making mega-bucks and getting real rich. How rich? Let’s navigate. The Los Angeles Times highlighted this travesty in writing, Is a City Manager Worth $800,000?,

Bell, one of the poorest cities in Los Angeles County, pays its top officials some of the highest salaries in the nation, including nearly $800,000 annually for its city manager, according to documents reviewed by The Times.

In addition to the $787,637 salary of Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo, Bell pays Police Chief Randy Adams $457,000 a year, about 50% more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck or Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and more than double New York City’s police commissioner. Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia makes $376,288 annually, more than most city managers.

What can we learn about Bell? Do not confuse Bell with Bel Air, a mere 24 miles westward but in reality a world away. Bell has a total population of approximately 37 thousand citizens and per capita income of 13k.

What do Rizzo and his partners have to say about their ‘big bucks’? No shrinking violets in this crowd. As the LA Times reports,

Rizzo, who has run Bell’s day-to-day civic affairs since 1993, was unapologetic about his salary. (LD’s edit: Rizzo’s salary in 1993 was a more reasonable 72k)

“If that’s a number people choke on, maybe I’m in the wrong business,” he said. “I could go into private business and make that money. This council has compensated me for the job I’ve done.”

Spaccia agreed, adding: “I would have to argue you get what you pay for.”

Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez defended the salaries. “Our city is one of the best in the area. That is the result of the city manager. It’s not because I say it. It’s because my community says it.”

Is that right? Is that what the community says? Not everybody in the community. The Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, otherwise known as BASTA, has a lot to say about these salaries. What does BASTA look to accomplish? From their website, we learn BASTA’s

mission is help restore good governance to the City of Bell by ending the abuse of Bell taxpayers’ funds by various elected and appointed officials.

Let’s take a quick listen to representatives of BASTA on a recent interview:

If you see extended fireworks over Vernon,CA, a mere 4 miles away from Bell, those most likely are not extended July 4th pyrotechnics but perhaps Bruce Malkenhorst having “Robert Rizzo Day” for the balance of 2010.

You really can’t make this stuff up.

If this story were not so tragic in light of the ongoing fiscal nightmare in our nation today, I’d think I was reading a financial review of third world puppeteers.

What has happened to our country?

Comments always encouraged and appreciated. I am sure readers would welcome hearing from those in Bell or surrounding communities with specific insights on this story. Thanks!!


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