L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley is investigating how five council members can be paid $8,000 a month for meeting just two days a month. The D.A.'s investigation is looking at the $100,000 each of the council members, including the mayor, are paid when the state law says it should only be a maximum of $400 a month.
The photographs on the wall and a letter from the city attorney are all Eyewitness News received as a response to the D.A.'s investigation. Messages to the mayor, the four council members and the city attorney went unanswered.
"It doesn't seem fair, but if that's the salary they're getting, then they should be working more for the city," said Bell resident Jan Perry.
"I don't think they are deserving of their salaries. It has to go down," said Nestor Valencia, a resident of Bell. "These are working-class communities. We work hard for our money. Some people are not working."
A letter from the district attorney says under state law, the maximum amount should be $150 per month per council member. All the council members make nearly $1,600 a mouth extra for things not fully explained to the D.A. This in a town of fewer than 40,000 people.
The letter says: "If the additional $1,574.65 payments are compensation for service on some other city board or body ... they appear to be in excess of the $150 per month maximum allowed."
"They should be doing something more for the city than they have done in the past," said Jan Perry. "Maybe more in safekeeping, maybe more in trying to figure out what basic services the children in this community need."
In a letter to the district attorney, Bell essentially says it is within its constitutional authority to set pay as it wishes for other commission and boards.
Nestor Valencia is a community activist, lifetime resident and head of the Bell Resident Club.
"I think they disrespect us with this type of salaries," said Nestor Valencia. "I think they marginalize us with saying, 'No one is going to pay attention.' But we are going to pay attention, we're paying attention now."
Calls to the Bell city attorney, Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez and council members have not been returned.
Bell is soon going to be taking over day-to-day operations for the nearby city of Maywood. Maywood has had to disband its police force and is going to contract with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department because it has run out of money to pay its insurance.