Earlier this summer a scandal erupted in the small, working class town of Bell, California. Three of Bell’s top officials were pulling down half-a-million-plus salaries, a feat the administrators accomplished by changing the city’s municipal charter status to bypass a state law that had imposed a limit on public salaries.
It turns out that these three were only the tip of the iceberg. This week Bell’s mayor and city council were arrested for raking in salaries between $100,000 to $400,000. Their work consisted of sitting on fake boards where a typical meeting consisted of an 8 minute roll call.
Much of Bell’s has come to light through the reporting of the LA Times.
As Daniel Foster at National Review writes, it gets worse from here. Investigators found illegal loans, property tax raids, and bonds issued without voter approval. Bell’s government was a racket and the city could be headed for receivership.
What ended Bell Council’s plunder? It took years of “brazen and inept corruption, the stress of a recession, a statewide fiscal crisis, one anonymous tip, dogged reporting, and national publicity” for Bell’s citizens to march to City Hall.
With this insight, Foster raises a troubling paradox: the role crisis plays in bringing to light the causes of the crisis.