The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is cracking down on corruption in the city of Bell. Yesterday the mayor, Oscar Hernandez, and seven other current and former Bell officials were arrested by police and D.A. investigators.
The Los Angeles Times, which broke the story, reported “…a battering ram” had to be used to break into the home of Mayor Hernandez, in order to arrest him. Hernandez was taken into custody Tuesday morning along with city council members Teresa Jacobo, Luis Artiga and George Mirabal as well as ex-council members George Cole and Victor Bello, and ex-Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia and ex-City Manager Robert Rizzo.
The eight defendants are charged with ripping off more than $5.5 million from the city of Bell and its citizens. They are due to appear in court later today. At a news conference yesterday, Los Angeles County District Attorney, Steve Cooley, gave a harsh assessment of their alleged crimes: “They used the tax dollars collected from the hard-working citizens of Bell as their own piggy bank, which they then looted at will.” The Times has more on the arrests, reaction from Bell residents, and additional photos here.
A similar city government scandal is festering in Media City. I’ve been covering the scandal, on this blog, for more than a year. Elements of the scandal have been picked up by the national media as well. Right now, millions of taxpayer dollars are being used to defend the city and its police department against lawsuits and a long list of alleged crimes and misdeeds. However, the city council and some powerful city hall insiders are refusing to give the public an accounting of this money.
On last night’s city council written agenda, there was a listing of the cases discussed in the secret closed door session by council members and the city attorney. The agenda stated 8 cases involved “existing litigation” and 7 cases “anticipated litigation.” Also, the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department are conducting investigations here in Burbank.
Despite claims of fiscal responsibility and the need for budget cutbacks, the city council is approving big raises for a “select group” of employees — many already bank six-figure salaries. Recently, the council voted to jack up utility rates, even though, Burbank Water and Power officials admit residents have reached a 20 percent reduction goal several years ahead of schedule. Something is seriously wrong in Burbank.