Wilkinson College of Humanities and Social Sciences
The City of Bell Scandal Revisited

The City of Bell scandal is the largest local government scandal in the history of the state of California. The scandal raised critical questions about local government finances, law, citizen engagement, and media coverage. The lessons of the Bell scandal need to be understood by all if similar scandals are to be prevented.

9 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.

(The conference was open to the public, students, faculty, and staff)
This conference was made possible due to a generous grant from the Fieldstead Foundation.


"Corruption on steroids" is what Los Angeles District Attorney Steven L. Cooley called the scandal in Bell, California, a working class community of 35,000 people in Los Angeles County. City Manager Robert Rizzo was being paid a total of 1.5 million dollars in wages and benefits; and the assistant city manager Angela Spaccia and police chief Randy Adams were making more than 1.5 million dollars in salaries and benefits—grossly more than their counterparts in neighboring cities. Both Rizzo and Spaccia received lengthy prison sentences and were ordered to pay millions of dollars in restitution. Adams was forced to resign. Also, Bell’s city council members who received $100,000 a year salaries—grossly more than what other city council members make--pleaded no-contest to criminal charges. They also agreed to pay the city a total of nearly 1 million dollars in restitution. "Bell” is also the story of rebirth and renewal of a city battered by scandal. It is the story of an unlikely coalition of first generation Hispanics and Muslims-- political amateurs all—who successfully fought to restore transparency and democracy to their community.

What can we learn from the Bell fiasco? What’s broken and how can it be fixed? What are Bell’s lessons? Was the scandal in Bell unique? Or, did Bell lay bare problems that may be present in other local municipalities? On February 19, an eclectic group of local government “watchers”--journalists, citizen activists, elected officials, and academics will come together for a day to shed some light on these questions. In addition to their presentations, many of the panelists have written white papers which will be published on a website which will serve as a repository for the scandal.

(Photo Credit: Robert Lachman - Copyright © 2010. Los Angeles Times. Reprinted with Permission.)

Learn more about the details of this scandal in the Timeline Bell: ‘Corruption on Steroids’ written by Los Angeles Times Staffers.

Browse the contents of City of Bell Scandal Revisited:

Conference Agenda and Video
Panelist Bios
Media Coverage
White Papers
Bell Scandal YouTube Clips
Bell Conference Photos
Click here to view a collection of photos from the recall election that occurred as a result of the Bell scandal.

Click here to see a collection of photos from the City of Bell Scandal Revisited conference, held at Chapman University on February 19, 2015.