Bell police union questions promotion

BELL, Calif. "We'd like the answers, and we'd like to know," said Kurt Owens, Bell Police Officers Assoc.

Calls for yet another investigation in the city of Bell: this time, members of Bell's police union are demanding answers after an e-mail surfaced that they say was written by ousted city administrator Robert Rizzo.

The union says in the e-mail Rizzo requests an employment contract for then police-department Sergeant Ty Henshaw, asking the treasurer to "retro his pay from February to June to $10,000 a month, pay his portion of deferred comp, and make him full time lieutenant."

"The e-mail proves that Lt. Henshaw went above and beyond and was closer to Bob Rizzo than anyone else," said Owens.

According to police union representatives, Henshaw was promoted without the position being posted, given a raise retroactively, which, the union says, never happens, and basically given possibly as much as $15,000 in deferred compensation for his pension.

Retired police officer James Corcoran, who contacted the L.A. County District Attorney's office about misconduct in the city of Bell and the police department, says deferred comp is never paid by the city.

"To me that's the most disturbing factor, because a policeman cannot take a gift from municipality in good faith, unless there's some type of explanation attached," said Corcoran. "But what was bothersome was the fact that Mr. Rizzo, he referred to Ty as a trustworthy individual. And coming from a source such as Mr. Rizzo, in retrospect, perhaps that's questionable."

Corcoran partially blames Rizzo's ability to rule without consequences and the city's current mess on current L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley's inaction. Corcoran first reported his suspicions to the D.A.'s office in 2009 and says nothing was done until spring 2010.

"He did drop the ball in my opinion, and again, it would have been different had he and his office acted differently," said Corcoran.

A representative from the Public Integrity Division in Steve Cooley's office denies Cooley dropped the ball on the investigation in Bell. They say they did investigate the information first brought to them in 2009. And they add that Rizzo giving a police officer a raise, however unconscionable, does not constitute a crime because the city council gave Rizzo the authority to enter into contracts on behalf of the city.

According to Henshaw's attorney there is nothing extraordinary about his client's employment contract.

Henshaw's attorney says Henshaw received an 11-percent raise when he was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant and that having a police officer's deferred comp paid is a common benefit negotiated in law enforcement contracts throughout L.A. County.

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