Ex-City Official’s $650,000-a-Year Pension Slashed Again

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Robert Rizzo

Robert Rizzo, former chief administrative officer for the city of Bell and poster child for abusively large government-funded pension payouts, had his pension cut for a second time when the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) notified him June 6 that he is not entitled to five years’ worth of credit he bought for himself with city funds.

That reduced his expected payout from $650,000 to $50,000. CalPERS sent a similar letter to Rizzo’s deputy, Angela Spaccia, that her $250,000-a-year pension was now $34,000.

When CalPERS discovered during a routine audit in 2006 that Rizzo received a 47% pay hike the year before, its response was silence. The agency is supposed to take action when it spots a pay spike because of its pension consequences, but CalPERS deemed the increase legitimate because the assistant city manager and city council members also received huge salary boosts. Rizzo’s salary eventually reached $800,000 a year.

Governor Jerry Brown,  who was state attorney general at the time, initiated a civil suit against Rizzo alleging “waste of public funds, negligence, fraud, conflict of interest, breach of fiduciary duty and violation of public trust” in August 2010 after an expose by the Los Angeles Times spurred an investigation of Bell’s salary escapades.

The civil suit was eventually tossed out of court, but criminal charges were soon to follow. CalPERS announced it would review the compensation of any CalPERS-covered employee making more that $245,000 a year and in November 2010 said it would not pay pensions to the Bell officials based on the salary increases.

In February 2011, Rizzo and seven other Bell officials were charged with looting one of Los Angeles County’s poorest municipalities of more than $5.5 million. Eight charges of attempting to manipulate the state pension system were added in a March 2011 indictment and the city recalled the mayor, three sitting councilmembers and one who had already resigned.

Rizzo sued the city of Bell in November 2011 for firing him without cause because he had not been convicted of a crime, yet, and demanded back pay.

-by Ken Broder

To Learn More:

Robert Rizzo's Retirement Pay is Slashed Again (by Jeff Gottleib, Los Angeles Times)

CalPERS Knew About Bell Administrators' Large Raises (by Evan Halper, Marc Lifsher and Rich Connell, Los Angeles Times)

Bell Salaries Raise More Concerns about CalPERS (by Evan Halper and Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times)

Pensions for Rizzo, 40 Other Bell Employees Will be Larger than First Estimated (by Jeff Gottlieb, Los Angeles Times)

CalPERS Audit Finds Recent Compensation for City of Bell Officials Does Not Qualify for Pensions (CalPERS website)

City of Bell Public Agency Review (CalPERS) (pdf)

Grand Jury Indictment of Bell’s Rizzo and Spaccia (Los Angeles Times)

Robert Rizzo, Aide Accused of Conspiracy in Bell Corruption Scandal (by Jeff Gottlieb and Corina Knoll, Los Angeles Times)

Bell Voters Cast Out the Old and Opt for the New (by Christopher Goffard and Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times)

Robert Rizzo Sues Bell, Says City Had No ‘Cause’ to Fire Him (by Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times)

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