Bell officials update residents on progress

BELL, Calif.

Former city manager Robert Rizzo is facing dozens of counts of fraud and other charges over a corruption salary scandal.

After the last year or so of controversy, it doesn't take much to improve the quality of government in Bell.

The new leaders of the scandal-plagued city on Wednesday tried to show residents - and the rest of the world - that Bell is no longer the corruption capital of the U.S.

"We have made City Council decision-making more transparent and welcomed civic participation in the municipal affairs, improved communications with the public, hired new auditors to conduct audits of the past two fiscal years to provide an accurate picture of our financial condition," said Mayor Ali Saleh during a speech outside City Hall on Wednesday.

Corruption, though, is what cast a national spotlight on Bell. Eight former Bell officials are accused of paying themselves high salaries while illegally boosting city taxes and fees. They are facing multiple corruption charges.

A handful of people showed up to protest the city's lack of speed in making changes.

"They promised us they were going to reduce the taxes, that they were going to take action on the benefits, on the pensions, and they were going to take care of the employees that were making outrageous salaries and they're doing that super slow," said Bell resident Jose Moreno.

But Bell officials say the problems that plague this city built up over 20 years and will take a long time to fix.

"Getting there will be a long process," said Arne Croce, interim chief administrative officer. "It will not happen overnight and I can guarantee you that the reforms that the council would like to see, that the community would like to see, will take longer, unfortunately, than any of us would like them to take."

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