Troubled city of Bell selects interim manager

The troubled city of Bell has selected another interim city manager until a permanent one can be found to help the city recover from a municipal corruption scandal that nearly drove it to the brink of bankruptcy.

Arne Croce will start August 22 and will earn a weekly salary of $3,230 with no medical or retirement benefits after working the first week for free, the city announced Friday.

Croce, the former city manager of San Mateo and Los Altos in Northern California, will replace interim city manager Kenneth Hampian. He will fill that role for several months until a permanent city manager is hired.

"I look forward to support the new city council and city organization as they focus on putting community service first and restoring the public's trust and confidence in their local government," Croce said in a statement.

Bell has been without a permanent city manager since last July when Robert Rizzo was fired. Public outrage built after it was learned he had an annual salary and compensation package of $1.5 million and was paying huge salaries to numerous other Bell officials.

Rizzo, his chief assistant and six former city council members face charges of fraud and misappropriation of public funds. Authorities say Rizzo looted the treasury of Bell, a blue-collar city where one in six people live in poverty, to pay himself and the others the enormous salaries.

The scandal so damaged Bell's reputation that when the city initially advertised for a new manager, no one applied.

Since then, Bell has sought help from the League of California Cities and other professional organizations in recruiting candidates.

Hampian said he's leaving because he has other personal and professional obligations to fulfill. He said he and other city managers are volunteering to work for Bell because they feel the scandal harmed their profession and the reputation of public servants.

"This is an opportunity for us to give back and show what professional management can do for a city," Hampian said.

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