Bell resident Roger Ramirez began to hear rumors in late 2008 that the top city administrator and City Council were collecting high salaries.
He confronted city leaders about it, but was rebuffed and told to file a public records request. When they responded to the inquiry, they lied.
The document, later revealed by the Los Angeles Times when it unearthed the corruption, was used in the criminal case against ex-city administrator Robert Rizzo.
On Friday, Ramirez was one of four people who were commended for their bravery, aiding victims and assisting in criminal prosecutions.
"The four people being honored today put the needs of others before their own," said Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey.
Among those honored was Alicia De la Cruz, 47, of Studio City and Robert Edwards, 44, of Woodland Hills for saving the life of a homeless man in June 2011.
The pair prevented the homeless man from being beaten to death with a tire iron by the co-founder of the Pinkberry frozen yogurt chain and another man. Young Lee was sentenced earlier this year to a maximum seven years in prison for the beating.
Also honored was David Munoz, 37, of Montebello. Munoz, a plant manager at a Boyle Heights elementary school, helped chase and capture a man who assaulted a 6-year-old girl at the empty elementary school in March 2011.
Whether challenging the veracity of civic leaders or coming to the aid of those under attack, the honorees never second-guessed their actions in the pursuit of justice, Lacey said.
"Our community is a better place because of them."