There’s a small city near here called Bell . Maybe you’ve heard of it . It’s been in the papers for corruption . Rizzo ? Does the name ring a bell ? ( sorry ! ) Councilmen were being paid $ 100,000 for part time positions . They were being paid for committee work on committees that never met . Bell is a working class city of 36,000 . The former city manager , Rizzo , was making a salary of about $ 800,000 per year . Not bad work if you can get it ! He goes on trial later .
Five of six former Bell officials were convicted yesterday of misappropriation of public funds . The one city councilman who was acquitted claimed ignorance of the ongoing graft . A reporter had asked him last year , as revelations the corruption unfolded , if he ever wondered where the stream of $ 8000 checks he used to receive for no apparent reason were coming from . ” I thought it was a gift from God ,” he said .
Misappropriation of funds ? I worked with a school administrator who eventually stood trial for misappropriation of funds . He struck a bargain with the D. A. and admitted to ” misappropriating” $45,ooo of middle school money . Instead of going to the school , the funds went , instead , to shoes for this guy’s kids , barbeques for his home , a futon for his condo in Hawaii . Those are the items I heard about . At the time I knew people with some inside information . Nothing came out in the papers as the potential scandal was unfolding . I kept waiting in vain for publicity of the crime . I heard that he had actually stolen about $ 350,000 of school funds over a few- year period . He was Assistant Principal and oversaw the school’s budgets . The Principal didn’t notice ? Both he and the ‘ see-no-evil’ principal got promoted before the thief , sorry , the ‘misappropriator’ was arrested .
Finally , a brief story , hidden on page 19 , appeared in the L.A. Times . The headline said : School Administrator Admits To Misappropriation Of Funds . The short article said that he had admitted to misappropriating $45,000 and agreed to pay back $75,000 . It made him sound like a good guy , like maybe he had used funds meant for textbooks to , instead , buy desks , or something like that . And now he was admitting fault and willing to pay more money back to make up for it . The school district , I think , had done a good job at sweeping this potential scandal under the rug . His career was ruined , of course , but , as far as I know , he never went to prison . And , the way this system works , he is probably getting his pension from the state , and at administrator rates . But , that’s a story for another day .
The Bell defendants were not convicted of some other counts . The jury was deadlocked on whether or not the outrageous salaries constituted a violation of the law . The jury deliberated as long a period of time as the trial had lasted . The judge told them , after the first verdicts were presented but the others remained undecided , to go back and finish the job . They couldn’t . The judge later said that ” All hell had broken loose ” in the jury room . Today’s L.A. Times front page headline reads : BELL TRIAL ENDS IN CHAOS . Yesterday’s was : FIVE GUILTY IN BELL .
One juror described all of the defendants as “good people” .
The defendants had all blamed Rizzo for their current troubles . He was the one who determined the salaries . Some of them , to justify a salary 10 times what it should have legally been , said that they had worked nights and weekends to help the poor city .