LA County DA to investigate salaries of Bell council members

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office says it’s investigating why council members in the small city of Bell make $100, 000 a year for part-time work.

Bell in southeastern L.A. County is a working class city with about 40,000 people. This week, the D.A.’s office announced it will conduct an initial probe of Bell’s council members who take home just over $8,000 a month. The D.A. says that’s too much for part-time council members to rake in — especially in such a small city.

Neighboring Maywood, a city that’s transferring control of its municipal operations to Bell because of financial problems, pays its council members stipends of about $300 a month.

Fernando Guerra teaches about local politics at Loyola Marymount University. He says most small cities don’t operate the way Bell does.

“The basic crime the D.A. will investigate is whether or not there was a conflict of interest when the city council voted to pay itself," Guerra said. "The basic argument the D.A.’s going to make is that a council member cannot vote to enrich themselves. They’re supposed to recuse themselves when voting on a project for instance that would benefit or hurt their property or their place of business.”

Guerra — who’s also a KPCC board member — says the Bell city council could have placed the salary issue on the ballot for its voters to decide. Some council members say they have nothing to hide about their six-figure salaries. The D.A.’s office says it may launch a full investigation if it finds that members broke the law.