Chapman University's announcement that it will be presenting a day-long conference in February examining the City of Bell scandal is not the exciting part, although I'm sure a good time will be had by all.
No, the bestest of the bestest about this is we get to once again break out our police mugshot of Robert Rizzo, the former Bell city administrator who was living in Huntington Beach when he became the national poster child for greedy public servants run amok.
Then-Los Angeles County District Attorney Steven L. Cooley called the Bell scandal "corruption on steroids," which must mean steroids are fattening considering Jabba the Corrupt's lovely image.
In Bell, a working-class community of 35,000 people in LA County, The Rizz pulled down $1.5 million in annual wages and benefits, paying his assistant and police chief $500,000 in yearly salary and benies and huge meeting per diems to his City Council "bosses," who never batted their eyes at the siphoning of the public treasury.
The Chapman conference, "The City of Bell Scandal Revisited," is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 19, from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Argyros Forum 209 on the Orange campus. Admission will be free and open to the public, but you are advised to pre-register at www.chapman.edu/bellconference to guarantee a seat. Among those attendees are scheduled to hear describe the scandal and its consequences are:
* Los Angeles Times investigative reporter Jeff Gottlieb, who, along with his colleague Ruben Vives, uncovered and broke the story in 2010, winning a Pulitzer Prize for their efforts.
* John Chiang, treasurer of the State of California.
* Teri Sforza, Orange County Register investigative reporter.
* Doug Willmore, current Bell city manager.
* Anthony Taylor, lead counsel for the City of Bell during the scandal-related litigation.
* James Spertus, the attorney who defended Rizzo.
* Jennifer Rodgers, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity at Columbia University.
Also scheduled to participate is Cooley, who as LA's DA ran for California Attorney General, losing to Democrat Kamala Harris. Cooley had won the Republican nomination away from former Huntington Beach-based state legislator Tom Harman and Chapman law school professor John C. Eastman. (I know … awkward).
Made possible by a Fieldstead Foundation grant, the conference is being coordinated by our old pal Fred Smoller, a longtime Chapman political science professor.
"The City of Bell Scandal Revisited will delve into the Bell fiasco in depth, from varied angles," says Smoller in a university release. "The scandal in Bell was the largest municipal corruption scandal–in terms of the number of investigations and the international press it prompted–in California history.
"And what happened in Bell didn't stay in Bell," Smoller continues. "It has implications for all local government. All of us need to understand Bell's lessons so we can prevent similar things from happening in our own communities. "
He believes the gathering he's putting together is "very unusual–and probably unprecedented," as it's bringing together academics, activists, journalists and attorneys with unique perspectives on the scandal. Many panelists have written white papers that will be published on a website that will serve "as an informational and academic repository for the scandal," adds Smoller, who will moderate panels along with three other Chapman colleagues.