Former police chief investigated in Calif. city

/ Source: The Associated Press

Prosecutors were investigating disability claims by the former police chief of the scandal-plagued city of Bell that could result in millions of dollars in tax-free pension money, a newspaper reported Friday.

The district attorney's office was trying to determine if Randy Adams broke the law by cutting a deal with Bell to support his disability retirement, the Los Angeles Times said.

If the state approves the pension application, Adams would have to pay taxes on only half his potential $400,000 annual pension.

His attorney, Mark Pachowicz, said Adams had been disabled by previous injuries when he became Bell's police chief last year.

"I don't think he should be under investigation," the lawyer said.

The newspaper previously said Adams had filed for a non-disability retirement as he prepared to leave his job as Glendale police chief. He rescinded that application when he left that post and took the job in Bell in July 2009.

Adams' salary was among the most scrutinized in a pay scandal that led to the arrests of eight current and former Bell officials. Adams was not arrested.

Investigators have reviewed some information about the agreement and might expand the inquiry, District Attorney Steve Cooley said.

Cooley said he would not take part in any decision regarding whether to file charges because he has known Adams professionally for several years.

The Bell agreement said Adams experienced "flare-ups of debilitating back pain and numbness in his left foot."

The agreement was made to ensure that the city wouldn't challenge a future disability retirement, Pachowicz said.

Adams resigned earlier this year in the midst of the Bell salary scandal after reports surfaced that he was earning $457,000 a year to police a city of about 40,000. Rizzo and other officials also resigned following public outrage over their huge salaries.

Rizzo, Mayor Oscar Hernandez and six other former and current Bell officials were arrested Tuesday after being charged with misappropriating $5.5 million in city funds.

The others are former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia; Vice Mayor Teresa Jacobo; council members George Mirabal and Luis Artiga and former council members Victor Bello and George Cole.

Artiga, Jacobo and Cole have posted bail. A judge on Friday also granted permission for Spaccia to post bail after prosecutors said they were convinced she would not be using allegedly looted city funds.

Her attorney, Russell G. Petti, said he expects her to be released Friday.

Rizzo and the others were expected to remain jailed through the weekend.

Rizzo's attorney, James Spertus, said Superior Court Judge Michael E. Pastor refused to permit his client to be freed.

A bail bondsman was willing to provide the $2 million bail, but prosecutors objected because only $1.6 million of that money was backed by collateral, Spertus said.

"It's all clean," he said of the money.

Spertus was deciding whether to appeal.