City of Bell Promised “Sunshine” But Offers Up Clouded Council and Candidate Financial Disclosures

City of Bell
City of Bell

The City of Bell has taken strides to become more transparent after its tumultuous corruption scandal of 2010 which led to the recall and removal of all five of its City Council Members as well as the City Manager Robert Rizzo and his assistant Angela Spaccia.

After seven of the former city officials, dubbed the “Bell 8” by the media, were convicted for misappropriation of public funds, the newly elected City Council promised to change the way city hall operated; making council meetings available online, posting public records, contracts and agendas, all in an effort to prove that they were tired of business as usual at City Hall.

All seemed well when the City of Bell revamped and launched its newly redesigned website in January of 2013. Mayor Ali Saleh was quoted as saying: “This new website isn’t just a stark contrast to the past; it’s a complete 360 degree turn that clearly demonstrates our continued commitment to transparency”. The website even earned a A- in 2013 from The Sunshine Review, a nonprofit organization the analyzes state and local government transparency.

So, given it’s dark history you would think the City of Bell would be keeping the spotlight on things like financial disclosures, namely California’s Form 700, which is the Statements of Economic Interests for candidates and council members running in the upcoming city council election, which now nearly 2 weeks away. This form is required by the Fair Political Practices Commission that under the Political Reform Act of 1974 (Government Code §87200 et seq.) dictates that public officials and candidates running for office must provide full-disclosure of their personal financial information to ensure there aren’t any conflicts of interest. The Mayor and City Council Members, including the City Manager, City Treasurer, City Attorney and Planning Commissioners must file Form 700 annually by April 1st.

However, the City of Bell hasn’t posted the required annual Form 700 files for candidates on its website since 2015. And at best, it has only posted financial disclosures for the five incumbent council members, albeit outdated information. You can view the City of Bell’s Statements of Economic Interest Form 700 here: http://www.cityofbell.org/?NavID=187.

So why the lack of transparency? Take a look at the sunny City of Pismo Beach for an example of a fully transparent website, which provides a records portal with the financial disclosures for every one of its currently elected Council Members, past candidates and financial decision-making staff. In contrast to the City of Bell, you can view this information here: https://accesspismo.pismobeach.org/WebLink/Browse.aspx?dbid=0&startid=170219&row=1&cr=1

WatchourCity.com is in process of obtaining these important financial disclosures for the City of Bell’s Council Members and candidates for the March 3rd election and will publish the information shortly and we have requested that they place the most updated information on the city website.

We strongly suggest the citizens of the City of Bell contact their City Clerk and request that these legally obligated forms are updated and maintained as required annually by state law, to ensure the sun is still shinning on the new city government.