Rating agency downgrades Bell's bonds to junk status

One Bell resident expressed his outrage over exorbitant pay for city officials on his T-shirt at a recent community meeting.
One Bell resident expressed his outrage over exorbitant pay for city officials on his T-shirt at a recent community meeting. Frank Stoltze/KPCC

Credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s has downgraded the City of Bell’s bonds to junk status.

Junk status means that investors who can’t afford the risk of losing money shouldn’t lend it to Bell.
Examiners have zeroed in on the city’s finances since the Los Angeles Times revealed the fat pay packages of Bell’s former city manager and city council members.

Days after the newspaper reported that Bell couldn’t meet an upcoming payoff deadline on bonds it floated three years ago to buy federal land, Standard and Poor’s responded with the junk rating.

Bell bought that land with plans to lease it for a rail shipping facility. That hasn’t happened, and the land could wind up in foreclosure.

Bell’s neighboring city, Maywood, also wants out of its arrangement for Bell to run its municipal operations.

At the same time, state Attorney General Jerry Brown and the man who’s running to succeed him, L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley, have decided to team up in their probes of Bell’s financial records.

Bell’s also looking for a new police chief to replace Randy Adams, who earned more than $400,000 a year before he resigned from that job.

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