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Benefits push Bell ex-manager's compensation to more than $1.5 million

Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo, whose $787,637 salary prompted widespread outrage, received an unusually lucrative package of benefits that increased his annual compensation to more than $1.5 million, according to city records reviewed by The Times.

Rizzo's benefits package for this year, which covers time off, retirement and medical and other types of insurance, shows he was entitled to vacation and sick leave that totaled more than 28 weeks a year.

Bell's interim city attorney said Saturday that Rizzo's compensation package raised serious questions and that the city planned to investigate who approved the perks and whether they are legal.

FULL COVERAGE: High salaries stir outrage in Bell

"It appears Rizzo was getting an inordinate amount of hours of vacation and sick benefits and being paid for it," said James Casso of the law firm Meyers Nave. "We're looking to see when it was approved, whether it was approved at a City Council meeting and who approved it."

Compensation experts said Rizzo's benefits package is far above the norm.

"This is extraordinary, it is outlandish and in absolutely no way represents" normal compensation for city managers, said Dave Mora, West Coast regional director of the International City/County Management Assn. and a retired city manager. " 'Extreme' is a kind word."

The revelations come as the L.A. County district attorney's office and California attorney general's office are investigating high salaries received by Rizzo and other top city administrators as well as City Council members, four of whom earned nearly $100,000 a year before cutting their pay two weeks ago.

Details about Rizzo's full compensation are contained in city records requested by The Times under the California Public Records Act. Rizzo did not return calls seeking comment.

The documents provided by the city set Rizzo's total annual compensation at $1,540,299.96, which included some unspecified benefits.

Casso said city officials were still trying to understand the compensation agreement. The documents appear to show that Rizzo was to receive 107 vacation days and 36 sick days a year. The documents don't specifically say he would be paid for each of these days, but they list his total compensation for vacation and sick time at $386,786 a year.

The documents show the city would pay $48,996 annually into Rizzo's deferred compensation plan. Bell also paid $20,496 into Rizzo's 457 plan, which is similar to a 401(k) for government employees. These retirement funds were in addition to his public employee pension. The city also paid his contribution to the public pension.

A Times analysis estimated that Rizzo would collect an annual pension of more than $600,000 upon retirement.

According to Rizzo's contract, the city was supposed to pay the full amount of his 457 plan in the first 10 days of the year, meaning he could benefit from an entire year of interest or investment gains. The city paid both his health insurance and any medical bills not covered by insurance.

It's normal for city administrators to receive vacation and sick days, solid medical coverage and contributions to retirement accounts.

But there is evidence Rizzo's deal was exorbitant.

For example, the total compensation of Arcadia's city manager went from $220,000 to $272,000 when benefits and deferred compensation were added, according to city records. In Redondo Beach, the city manager's total compensation went from $211,000 to $254,000 when benefits were added, according to city records.

Mora said that although Rizzo was receiving the same types of benefits other city officials receive, he appeared in many cases to be getting much more generous benefits. Rizzo "seems to have every potential benefit, and it's taken at the max," he said.

Two council members expressed shock Saturday when told about Rizzo's total compensation, insisting they had no idea how much he was earning.

Councilman Luis Artiga said he was "ashamed" after being told of the numbers. "I'm disgusted, I'm sick and I feel like crying," he said.

Councilman Lorenzo Velez added: "I feel like I've been raped, my insides have been gutted out."

On Friday, the city released documents showing that several department heads were earning more than $200,000, including two whose total compensation topped $400,000. Documents obtained by The Times also show that the city had made payments of more than $100,000 each to two officials in addition to their reported compensation.

Rizzo stepped down three weeks ago along with two other top city officials after The Times revealed their salaries.

The newly reviewed records show that when the benefits package is added, Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia's $376,288 salary more than doubles, to $845,960. Police Chief Randy Adams' pay jumps from $457,000 to $770,046 annually.

Spaccia was to have received $188,640 in vacation and sick pay and Adams $76,428, the records show. Adams, according to his contract, was to have received lifetime medical benefits for him and his family.

Spaccia declined to comment. Adams said he was accumulating sick time and vacation days in a usual manner but was not being paid extra for the days.

jeff.gottlieb@latimes.com

ruben.vives@latimes.com

Times staff writers Sam Allen and Abby Sewell contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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