Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bell: Where Even the Parks are Tainted by Corruption

Just in case you thought the only victims of the immense public corruption scandals in the Los Angeles County town of Bell were its unfortunate residents, think again: according to the LA Times, Bell may have bilked taxpayers statewide out of thousands in grants through the Parks and Recreation Department. As a result of an audit by parks officials, Bell has been ordered to repay almost $500,000, a further setback for a city struggling to come up with over $4 million to avert a bankruptcy filing.

The problem was first uncovered by last year's audit from the state Controller's office: this work found that disgraced former City Manager Robert Rizzo had steered over $700,000 in grant money to local companies, all without signed contracts, competitive bidding, or city council approval. Parks auditors then discovered that much of this activity involved grants totaling $4.78 million, which they gave to Bell in 2003 and 2004; a further irregularity involved a grant awarded this year, in which the city failed to provide records of construction costs that auditors requested.

Bell was ordered to make the $500,000 payment by July 30, which (without a budget) it clearly fell short of. Parks and Rec officials are said to be arranging a meeting with the city to find a solution to the issue.


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