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Voter fraud alleged in troubled city of Bell

July 27, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Tuesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office confirmed it has been investigating voter fraud allegations in the city of Bell since March. The information comes to light as the city deals with resignations and pay cuts from leaders with inflated salaries.The D.A.'s investigation into voter fraud stems from a lawsuit filed by a former Bell Police officer. In it, that officer alleges that last year, city officials tried to rig the city council elections. The officer's lawsuit alleges sexual harassment by former city manager Robert Rizzo.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, former Bell Police Sgt. James Corcoran says he was demoted after complaining when several Bell police officers distributed absentee ballots and told residents whom to vote for in the 2009 city council elections.

The lawsuit also claims officers filled out several ballots with the names of deceased Bell residents.

Corcoran says it was former city manager Robert Rizzo who instructed the officers to commit the alleged voter fraud. At the time, current city council members Teresa Jacobo and Luis Artiga were up for reelection.

Tuesday prosecutors with the L.A. County District Attorney's Office acknowledged the lawsuit, saying they've been investigating the city of Bell since March.

"It is a broad investigation that is multifaceted including voter fraud and other allegations," said a spokesperson for the district attorney.

It is yet another layer of controversy plaguing the city of 40,000.

Monday night after a volatile Bell City Council meeting, council members agreed to take a 90-percent pay cut to their $100,000 salaries.

"It's clear that all council members should be receiving the same reimbursement," said Bell City Councilman George Mirabal.

"I will resign to my salary, but I will not resign to my position," said Bell City Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo. "I am here to stand by my people, to make the changes necessary, to apologize for all this turmoil."

The move comes less than a week after Rizzo, his assistant and chief of police Randy Adams resigned due to their hefty salaries.

The issue has sparked an investigation by the state attorney general's office. AG Jerry Brown Monday subpoenaed hundreds of documents from the city.

Late Tuesday morning State Controller John Chiang arrived in Bell to review city records to see if these excessive salaries were obtained illegally.

"We wanted to make sure that we got the books clean, that we provided transparency, most importantly, so that we can restore public confidence," said Chiang.

The president of the Bell Police Officers Association Tuesday for comment on the allegations of voter fraud.

Former officer Corcoran's lawsuit alleges that a city worker in Bell told him last year that she was sexually harassed by former city manager Rizzo at his home, and that he apparently told her "he admires Adolf Hitler." No formal complaint was filed by that worker.


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