Reports and Analysis
In 2010, Bell, California was a small city with a big corruption problem. Its city manager at that time, Robert Rizzo, had developed a plan to enrich himself at the city’s expense, and covered his tracks by involving numerous other city officials in his corrupt scheme, including the city councilmembers who were supposed to serve as a check on Rizzo’s power. Because virtually all of Bell’s top-level officials ended up implicated in the criminal conduct, the limited number of checks and balances built into Bell’s governing structure failed. And because Bell did not have any formal anti-corruption mechanisms in place — particularly oversight and transparency measures — no one outside of the small group of decision makers running Bell had the ability or duty to ensure that the city’s leaders were governing with integrity.
The situation that Bell found itself in as 2010 drew to a close — namely, cleaning up the mess caused by having a fox in charge of the henhouse of city funds — is one that is a risk in small cities and towns everywhere. Even with appropriate accountability and transparency regulations (which were not present in Bell before the Rizzo scandal), small municipalities like Bell constitute outsized corruption risks because the oversight they rely upon, at the county, state, and federal levels of government, are simply inadequate.
The Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia Law School focuses on helping government officials fight public corruption more effectively, with a particular focus on cities. We reviewed the anti-corruption measures put into place by Bell’s post-scandal administration, and recommend certain improvements we felt were advisable to ensure that Bell will be secure against a recurrence of the corruption visited upon the city by Rizzo and his coconspirators.
Jennifer Rodgers & Jacob Watkins,
Rebuilding Bell, California: Review and Recommendations for Continued Improvement of Accountability, Oversight, and Transparency,
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/public_integrity/4
Procurement Procedures in Bell
city_of_bell_-_ethics_requirements_for_city_employees_full.pdf (102 kB)
City of Bell Employee Ethics Requirements (Comprehensive)
city_of_bell_-_city_manager_city_attorney_city_treasurer_director_of_finance_etc.pdf (92 kB)
Ethics Requirements for the City Manager, City Attorney, City Treasurer, Director of Finance and Employees with a Fiduciary Responsibility
city_of_bell_-_ethics_requirements_for_council_members.pdf (90 kB)
Ethics Requirements for City Council Members
city_of_bell_-_ethics_requirements_for_general_employees.pdf (85 kB)
Ethics Requirements for General Employees