Waste and abuse in Bell, CA worse than previously thought

November 10, 2010

We’ve previously reported on the egregious waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars by Bell, California city officials.

But as reported by The Canadian Press, city officials had been even greedier than previously thought.

Residents of the scandal-plagued city of Bell gasped in shock and disbelief as state auditors told them their political leaders mismanaged tens of millions of dollars of the modest city’s money, using much of it to pay themselves enormous salaries.

The auditors spoke at a hearing called by state Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, who said he wanted to give residents of the working-class city of 40,000 a full accounting of what had happened.

Some 300 residents sat quietly Monday night in a school auditorium, listening politely as auditors from the state Controller’s office said Bell officials had collected $6.8 million over the past three years by doing such things as illegally raising their property taxes, sewer assessment fees and business license fees.

Lydia Barrios, who has lived in Bell for more than 30 years, told The Canadian Press: “I was shocked. It’s absolutely outrageous. They were just paying each other with our money.”

The fraud went unnoticed for several years by city council members, who failed to dutifully watch over the city’s treasury.  The Canadian Press noted that the situation in Bell came to light when The LA Times published a piece regarding salaries of Bell city officials after viewing the officials’ salaries via a California Public Records Act request. Part of the meeting on Monday highlighted the procedures to make public records requests.

This outrageous situation should encourage all citizens to take a closer look at their own governing officials, on all levels, to ensure they are governing responsibly.

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