Probe of Bell, Calif., officials widens

July 27, 2010 at 9:46 PM

LOS ANGELES, July 27 (UPI) -- Los Angeles County prosecutors say they are looking into alleged voter fraud and conflicts of interest in Bell, Calif., embroiled in a City Hall pay scandal.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley described the investigation as "rapidly expanding and full-fledged," saying investigators have been acquiring evidence since March, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

Until recently, Cooley's office has said it was just investigating inordinately high salaries for city officials in the mostly Hispanic community of 38,000 with a per capita income of around $24,000.

The salary of Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo was discovered to be around $800,000 a year, the highest amount in the nation for similar positions. Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia's salary was $376,288 and Police Chief Randy Adam received $457,000 per year, the Times reported. They have agreed to resign but Rizzo will get a pension of around $600,000 a year, The Washington Post reported.

"There's no way we can legally affect those," Bell City Attorney Edward Lee said when asked by a resident about the pensions.

The salary inquiry is only one part of the investigation, which includes an inquiry into whether city council members were paid for meetings they didn't attend, the Times said.

A whistle-blower lawsuit filed by a former Bell police officer alleges fraudulent use of absentee ballots. The suit alleges "off-duty police officers were taking absentee ballots and providing them to voters to fill out" and says some ballots were filled out in the name of deceased people.

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