Bell, Calif,. pay scandal causes ripples

Feb. 21, 2011 at 12:53 PM
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LINDSAY, Calif., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Lindsay, Calif.'s mayor says he wants to distance his town from Bell, Calif., where residents were outraged upon learning of officials' big salaries.

Lindsay has become an activist hotbed since residents learned its former city manager, Scot Townsend, earned $214,405 annually, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In Bell, former City Manager Robert Rizzo earned about $1.5 million annually in salary and benefits. Other officials also got big salaries, including the police chief, who was paid more than $450,000 yearly.

Bell has a population of about 37,000, Lindsay's is under 12,000.

"When we hired him, we knew we were willing to pay more to get Scot to do those jobs, and he's done them well," Murray said. "But people didn't want to hear about that. We are not Bell. We're not awarding huge salaries and we're not giving the city manager $100,000 loans. Nothing illegal has been done here in Lindsay."

Townsend resigned after allegedly receiving death threats when his salary was reported. Members of the City Cuncil also quit, although they didn't leave over their pay.

Lindsay realtor Delma Mecum was questioned by the Tulare County Sheriff's Department about a flyer left at Townsend's home, allegedly threatening him and his family. She denied any involvement in the matter.

"Things happen when no one is looking," said Mecum's husband, Steve Mecum, a correctional officer at nearby Corcoran State Prison. "And we walked into a big mess."

Murray said Townsend was paid more because he had the right mix of experience and skill.

Townsend said residents have a right to know how much city employees are paid, but he declined to talk about the alleged death threat.

"We had a great run. I got paid 10 percent to 20 percent more than my counterparts," Townsend said. "And the citizens, it's their community and they have a right to ask how much you get paid."

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