Oct 11, 2010

Tipster in the Bell salary scandal was a cop

The Los Angeles Times was the first news outlet to report publicly the ridiculously high salaries being paid to city administrators and council members in the city of Bell, but it wasn't the paper's stories that prompted the District Attorney's Office to look into the mess. Indeed, the Times got the story after receiving a tip from the DA's office.

So who first brought the corruption to light? Former Bell police sergeant James Corcoran was the original tipster, according to a May, 2009 letter obtained by California Watch. In the letter, Corcoran described a pattern of corruption that served as the underpinning of the charges filed against 8 current and former Bell officials. Corcoran convinced then-Bell City Councilman Victor Bello to sign the letter as a way to attract more attention from prosecutors - ironically, Bello was one of the eight people charged in the case.

From California Watch:
Among other things, the ... letter from 2009 directly accuses [former City Manager Robert] Rizzo of corruption, bribery, "underhanded real estate deals," "unethical retirement arrangements," and facilitating police misconduct. From the letter:
The city, however, has been victimized by mismanagement, illegal activity, and corruption. THe City Manager, Mr. Robert Rizzo, has continuously and consistently abused the power entrusted to him. I have witnessed: 
  • Public corruption
  • Bribery
  • Underhanded real estate deals
  • Unethical retirement arrangements
  • Police misconduct, including civil rights violations

Although the letters were signed by Bello, they were written by a former Bell police sergeant, James Corcoran, who was investigating corruption issues in the city. Corcoran was forced out of the department earlier this year and has since filed a civil suit alleging that he was dismissed in retaliation for his investigation.
Corcoran said he presented the district attorney’s office with evidence of corruption in Bell about two weeks before the May 6, 2009, letter was filed, and an investigator told him that having an elected official sign a formal complaint would lend more weight to the allegations.

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