An additional seven candidates filed the necessary paperwork Thursday to run for two seats on the Bell City Council.
That brings the total number of candidates to 17 who will vie for all five seats on the council next year, an election that could change the face of the city’s government.
Those who filed Thursday are seeking to fill the seats of former Councilman Luis Artiga, a pastor who resigned after being charged with misappropriation of city money, and of Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo, who faces a recall. Mayor Oscar Hernandez and Councilman George Mirabal are also facing recall, and all four have been charged in the public corruption scandal that exploded this summer.
Hernandez’s and Mirabal’s terms are ending and neither is running for reelection. Jacobo’s term runs through 2013. Although Artiga resigned, his name remains on the recall ballot.
Lorenzo Velez, the lone council member not charged in the scandal, is seeking reelection.
To save money, city officials have decided to merge the recall election with the regular municipal election on March 8. The ballot will offer voters in the small town southeast of Los Angeles the opportunity to elect an entirely new council.
The council will face a daunting mission. Bell is teetering on the brink of insolvency, and drastic cuts in city services — including disbanding the Police Department — will probably be necessary to fix its finances, according to a review by the Los Angeles County auditor-controller.
The review found that under former Chief Administrator Robert Rizzo, Bell has been running a deficit of several million dollars over at least the last three years. The deficit is the result of hefty salaries and pensions for top Bell officials and city-run programs, the review found. Officials allegedly took bond money for specific projects and diverted it to the general fund, a likely violation of the law, according to experts on municipal finance.
County officials will release the report next month.
The candidates who filed Thursday are Janice Leal Bass, Miguel Sanchez, Lorenzo Miguel Martinez, Ana Maria Quintana, Donald H. Tavares, Coco Ceja and Danny Harber.
Ten other candidates running for the three other council seats filed their paperwork two weeks ago.