Does this sound familiar? A group of politicians are elected to public office, they give themselves huge raises and then raise taxes on the citizens. Sounds like Washington DC, doesn’t it?
The case I’m referring to happened in the Bell, California. Have you ever heard of Bell, California? Located in Los Angeles County, Bell has a population of around 35,000. In 2005, an election was held in Bell to see if the residents wanted to make the town a charter city. Less than 400 voters turned out and the measure was passed. What Bell residents failed to realize was that being a charter city meant that their city officials were exempt from the state mandated salary caps.
Subsequently, the mayor and various members of the town council began voting themselves large raises. Robert Rizzo, city manager was making $787,637 a year ($1.5 million when added in benefits and compensation. Angela Spaccia, Rizzo’s assistant was making $376,288 a year. Randy Adams, police chief was making $457,000 per year. Although the city council positions were part time, each council member was paid $100,000 per year, compared to $4,800 per year for other cities of similar size.
However, Bell is not a wealthy town with one of every four people living below the poverty level. The only way to pay for their staggering salaries was to keep raising taxes on the city’s residents, but it wasn’t enough. Bell was rapidly facing a huge deficit of several million dollars, but city officials managed to keep it secret until a couple of reporters were investigating malfeasance in a nearby town. They heard about the outrageous salaries in Bell, and began digging into the story, which led to an audit by the state controller’s office. Audits revealed that the city had illegally increased fees for business licenses, property taxes and other sources of revenue.
In September 2010, charges were filed by the California Attorney General’s office against eight of Bell’s elected elite. On Wednesday of this week, five of the city officials were found guilty of multiple counts of misappropriating public funds. They were acquitted on some of the other charges, and a couple were acquitted of all charges. Sentencing has not been scheduled as far as I know.
I couldn’t help but think that President Barack Obama and many of our elected and appointed federal officials are guilty of the misappropriation of public funds. To begin with, Obama has misappropriated public funds by spending $10-$20 million dollars per family vacation 3-4 times a year, paying someone $100,000 to walk their dog and for supporting Michelle’s mother with public funds. Then we can add the misappropriations of funds by sending billions of dollars to countries that have vowed to destroy us such as Egypt.
Then we need to look at the various federal departments and file charges of misappropriation of public funds. I’d start with the State Department who is sending hundreds of millions of dollars to other countries like Kenya, while millions of Americans are out of work and out of their homes. Charity begins at home and before we keep building homes for residents of countries, we need to get Americans back in their homes.
Then there is Congress. How many senators and representatives attach riders to bills that serve to fund pet projects back in their home districts? I would bet that most, if not all members of Congress are guilty of funneling millions of dollars of public funds to friends and supporters.
If we treated our federal and state officials like the politicians in Bell, California, it might go a long way to start cleaning up Washington DC and putting America back on her financial feet. Our elected officials need to be held accountable for every penny they spend and allocate. They need to divulge and justify those expenditures and face the people that voted them into office. Again, I bet if they had to do that, many of them would no longer be holding public office and government spending would be cut to only the bare necessities. We have to run our homes and businesses that way and the government should have to do likewise.