Why public employee salary information matters

Eric Davis

Did they think they’d get away with this?

Bell, one of the poorest cities in Los Angeles County, pays its top officials some of the highest salaries in the nation, including nearly $800,000 annually for its city manager, according to documents reviewed by The Times.

In addition to the $787,637 salary of Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo […] Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia makes $376,288 annually, more than most city managers.


The district attorney is investigating Bell over the hefty compensation of its City Council members — about $100,000 a year for part-time positions. Normally, council members in a city the size of Bell would be paid about $400 a month, Demerjian said. (Emphasis mine)

The city manager, mayor and council members all initially defended their exorbitant salaries, claiming they were just being reasonably compensated for efficiently running their city.

Unsurprisingly, the taxpayers of Bell didn’t buy that excuse. The council members soon agreed to a 90% pay cut:

City Council members in Bell unanimously agreed Monday to give up their controversial $96,000-a-year salaries and instead draw $673 a month – a 90% decrease.

What instigated these salary cuts and sudden change of heart in the city’s politicians? Salary information obtained under the California Public Records Act.

This is just another example of why public record laws are necessary to ensure that local governments are run honestly. Without information empowering the public, these officials would have continued to draw exorbitant salaries.

To prevent this from happening in the future Bell (and every other town in America) should create a website dedicated to tracking public employee salaries.

Here is a video of protesters demanding the resignation of all involved:

(Cross-posted from the TransparentNevada Blog)