Why are the insane salaries paid to Bell City Administrators in CA not a criminal matter?

This story has been in the news and the administrators effectively agreed to quit. The were receiving half million dollar plus salaries for part time positions in a middle class city of 36,000 people.

My main question is why these people were allowed to resign vs the matter being turned over to the police and the participants arrested or charged with some sort of malfeasance. It sounds like the city is willing to let them walk.

Can they really get away with this?

States Atty Jerry Brown is looking into it here-

Brown said his department’s investigation is looking at all possible violations of

There’s no doubt that their salaries are morally reprehensible, and not serving the interests of the taxpayers, but what crime do you think that they committed? Having a job that pays you too much isn’t a crime.

As far as I know it is no more against the law than bonuses to AIG executives after the company got bailed out. It is against no criminal law because too many people would want to prevent it being criminal because they do it or hope to do it.

So there is no criminal malfeasance argument to be made in a group of politicians colluding to set their salaries to seven to ten times the norm seen in similar demographic communities?

I’m guess I’m just stunned this apparently went on for years before they were called on it.

As I understand it, they went through the motions and voted on their salaries and conducted their business according to rules set up under the city’s charter. They took it to ridiculous lengths, which I’m sure the authors of the charter never imagined, but I haven’t read anything to indicate they broke any laws in doing so.

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I’m not stunned. This is in keeping with the particular historical characters of the governments of the municipalities of southeast L.A. county. It has to do with the changing demographic span that came out of the post-WWII era.

plus, the OP’s own cites indicate that both the District Attorney and the Attorney General of the state are investigating the situation, to see if there are any criminal infractions. That takes time.

It’s a question of authorities. Did the citizens of Bell City, through the city charter or other legal formation documents, give the city council authority to raise their own compensation to the amount that they did, and did the council have the authority to raise the city employees salaries to the amount that they did?

I’m sure the city attorney and the state attorney will make a determination.

It’s not just salary, but pension, too.

What I want to know is – WHERE DID THAT MUCH MONEY COME FROM? It can’t possibly have come from income taxes and property taxes in a fairly small city with an average to low income base. If they had tried to raise taxes to a level to support those salaries, it definitely would have been noticed.

I’ve only read one or two of the stories about this, but I don’t recall seeing anyone raise or answer this question. Seems to me their city employment with those lavish salaries was more of a laundering operation for some other activity. That’s probably where the criminal charges will come into play.

That was my thought, too. Any violation of the law, I suspect, might’ve been in secretively holding executive sessions for the actual setting of salaries when that wasn’t permitted under the state sunshine law, or underreporting income in violation of federal tax law, or the like. “Being a breathtakingly overpaid public official” is not, in and of itself, a crime.

Can’t find the cite right now, but I read that these guys a part of the ‘3-50’ plan under Calpers. That allows them to retire anytime after age 50 with 3% of their highest salary times years of service. There is a max of 30 years of service (or 90%), but I think they can retire at 90% of those salaries with little problem…

The City Council Members got around state limits on city council salaries through a ballot measure that converted Bell into a charter city - thus exempting them from those limits.

There is currently a question whether they violated California’s open meeting laws. If that is the case, the district attorney could declare the salary agreements null and void (cite). Timed “correctly”, it could be a big boost to Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial campaign, so he’s probably got all available hands scouring the evidence.

In fact, it may have; many of Bell’s citizens claimed their property taxes had been hiked by thousands of dollars in just two years. One woman’s taxes went from $6000 to $9000 in twelve months. I guess this charter city thing is what allowed it.

My quick and dirty calc is they stole about 400 dollars each from every resident. And that doesnt include any pension monies.

THIS is why revolutions and vigalante justice arent always a bad thing.

Yes, it can. Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz, stepped outside of L.A.'s city limits to look at its “edge cities.” In particular, he looked at that group of small cities just southeast of L.A., including Bell. In chapter 12 of Dead Cities: And Other Tales (1992–The New Press) he writes about Vernon, one of these cities about two miles away from Bell, and how its clan-like government was determined to become an industrial core:

Bell and Maywood form a remaining northern residential “peninsula” surrounded by this industrial drive. The result in these cities was first a white flight (after WWII) which allowed (typically unionized and originally southern black) factory workers to move in, and then a black flight, as Latino families became able to do the same. This cultural shifting and instability allowed city governments such as Vernon’s and Bell’s to do whatever they wanted under the proverbial radar. Until now.

So the money did come from the property and sales tax bases–it’s just that the citizenry of these edge cities is typically not established enough to be paying a lot of attention to things like this. A lot of the local public expenses that larger cities have to face can be shunted off to the county, and–as micro-economies–their residential communities are hardly differentiated by city limits.

Davis once told me that a lot of the research he did on these cities was by necessity just hanging out in the local bars where the people who control their civic life hang out.

That’s fascinating.

While some of the city officials in Bell have been criminally charged, the County DA has another solution for Vernon, the “dummy” city created as a harbor for industrial concerns to locate next to Los Angeles, but avoid Los Angeles regulations. For the second time a Vernon mayor has been indicted, and the DA wants to get a law passed that would allow the county to take over a corrupt city:

Although corrupt in the same way, Vernon, as a city, presents different circumstances, one of which is that effectively no one really lives there:

What if one of those 91 people who live in Vernon should take up the Mantel of public service to right this situation? Don’t count on it:

It gets even more interesting:

Colma, Ca (AKA “the city of the dead”) is an incorporated city south of San Frncisco. Most of its inhabitants are dead (the city is 96% cemetary land), so it would seem that the city government needs are pretty limited. Anybody know what they make?