Chapman University Hosts Conference on City of Bell Scandal

The city that became famous for the largest local government corruption scandal in California is under scrutiny again — this time, in search of ways to prevent history from repeating itself.

The city of Bell will be the subject of a free, day-long conference Thursday at Chapman University, where academics, lawyers, media, law enforcement and elected officials will dissect the 2010 scandal and its impacts on local government as a whole.

The working class city of 35,000 people was put on the map in 2010 after an investigation by Los Angeles Times reporter Jeff Gottlieb, one of Thursday’s panelists, reported on the grossly high salaries of several top city officials.

Former City Manager Robert Rizzo was being paid a total of 1.5 million dollars in wages and benefits; assistant city manager Angela Spaccia and police chief Randy Adams were making half a million dollars in salaries and benefits; and city council members received more than $100,000 annual salaries — all far above what counterparts in neighboring cities would make.

Read all of the Times’ reporting on the scandal here.

The conference, which begins at 9:15 am, includes four panels and many of the key people who were integral to the scandal’s unfolding, including Gottlieb, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley; Bell City Manager Doug Wilmore and the attorneys who defended the city and individuals under criminal prosecution.

Chapman Associate Professor of Political Science Fred Smoller, who organized the event, hopes the conference will provide valuable insight into what went wrong in Bell, the challenges facing local governments across California, and what citizens and media can do about it.

“Some people don’t think that politics is the space to have an informed and civil conversation, but I’d like to do that here,” said Smoller. “I told the lawyers, ‘I’m not trying to retry the trial – I don’t want screaming matches.’ We’re just trying to get the real people involved to give their experiences.”

For more details about the event and to reserve a spot, visit the conference webpage.