State officials and scholars discuss how to fix Bell's problems

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Corey Moore/KPCC

Bell resident Ali Saleh helps deliver signed petitions for a proposed recall of Bell city officials to city hall.

Some policymakers call the city of Bell’s salary scandal as a catalyst for reforms they say local governments throughout the state require.

State officials and scholars used phrases like “openness and transparency” and “checks and balances” to discuss better ways of fixing the problems that plague Bell and other local governments in California. The group met for a daylong conference at USC.

State Assemblyman Hector De La Torre says his concern isn’t that charter cities like Bell oversee their own municipal affairs like elections and land use control.

“But things like accounting practices, things like pay of the City Council members, there needs to be a standard across the state that isn’t local control because accounting is accounting whether you’re in Southgate or Bell or Los Angeles or Sacramento," said De La Torre. "It’s numbers.”

De La Torre says he’ll push for a closer look at how all California’s charter cities exercise local control of fiscal issues outside the bounds of state law.

Authorities charged eight Bell City administrators of accepting bloated salaries and using city coffers like - as some put it - “a piggy bank.”

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