|Superintendent on Leave|
Last night, KCAL Nine news broadcasted that the local district had just appointed Cox as interim superintendent. They neglected to point out that Cox was a bi-monthly contributor to the local Daily Breeze a few years ago (he wrote about skiing, I believe). Why would the district promote the very people implicated in the corruption and malfeasance, anyway? Surely, the County Office of Education could have brought in an interim leader from the central office in Downey, or hired in an administration from a neighboring school district.
The next story which followed KCAL 9: the vocal apology then sentencing of corrupt then caught and convicted Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo.
Not exactly half the man he used to be, Rizzo is still quite large, but with far less money than he had pilfered from the city of Bell. KCAL 9 recorded the former administrator apologizing before the Downtown LA judge, who despite his deep rebuked Rizzo for the bad things that he had done.
Among the public integrity crimes which he had committed: paying himself, city council members, and his secretarial support six figure incomes, forcing up fees in a working-class city where residents barely survive on $20,000 a year.
The lack of transparency and awareness which followed was just sickening. Enough investigations and digging unearthed a city manager taking in many times more than other local leaders.
Following the explosive revelations from the LA Times, "Is your city manager worth $800,000?", Rizzo stepped down suddenly, but the later arrested, his hand-cuffed profile covering the LA Times front page. The paper exposed the depths of the corruption, including snide emails among Rizzo and co-conspirators, in which Rizzo cautioned on the extent of their greed: "Pigs get fat. Hogs get slaughtered."
Apparently, the chickens came home to roost, called out the pigs for hogging all the public revenue for themselves, and all of them got slaughtered.
Rizzo walked out of court, still free on a $2 million bond. He also apologized to the KCAL camera for what he did. The city manager will serve a 33 month sentence in federal prison, then a state sentence following - 12 years.
What will happen to Fernandez?
This morning, the Daily Breeze headlined that the LA District Attorney (along with the FBI and the district itself) is investigating CV Fernandez' exorbitant salary and benefits. On the LA Times cover, a picture of Robert Rizzo at his sentencing hearing/
What an eerie irony/coincidence indeed: Centi-Bell-a.
Strangely enough, though, KCAL 9 indicated no connection between Centinela and Bell, while the opportunity certainly presents itself.
Working class communities both, residents are too busying trying to get by to investigate the goings on in their city halls or school boards. Centinela is an interesting case, though, because the allegations of corruption are long-standing, from LA County Office of Education bureaucrats to the teachers, students, and active parents in the district area.
Despite all the admissions of transparency from the Centinela Valley school board, much of what transpired among the members was not made public. Members of the school board acknowledged that they were not aware that the superintendent was getting massive pay, plus benefits, and even the option for a low-interest home loan and lavish life insurance policy.
School board members are also receiving a high-caliber policies, and until recently, were getting substantial monthly stipends, four times the legal limit, according to the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
The frustrations with the district's easy access to lush property taxes in the Eastern El Segundo region, coupled with lower test scores and deviant behavior allegations pushed residents to enroll their students in other schools. One of CV's feeder districts, Wiseburn, had battled CV for a decade before winning the opportunity to break away and form its own unified school district. Local leaders in that district, now promoting well-respected and award-winning high school charter schools, had complained about the unscrupulous, suspect behavior, financial as well as academic, in CV.
The parallels continue. Just as a city manager oversees the major operations of a city, so to a superintendent supervises the major operations of an entire school district. How interesting that the executive authorities in these local governing bodies got away with so much money.
So far, Fernandez and the school board engineered a technically legal contract, although earlier reports confirm that the school board reviewed Fernandez' performance one time in five years, instead of every year.
How did they justify offering so lucrative a contract, including automatic salary increases?
Not just with the internal back-scratching, but the level of pay-for-play in CV includes building contractors putting down money for school board candidates, who then pushed for multi-million dollar bond measures to finance renovating the three comprehensive high schools. School boards bought by contractors to award themselves big contracts.
Bell officials kept the corruption close to their own wallets, one could say. But the over-enforcement of parking rules and fees nearly bankrupted local residents.
In the light of these dark, corrupt realities, city councils, including Bell, should remain intact, but an attentive public is crucial to insure that city councils honor their constituents, invest city and state revenues properly, and provide for the peace and security of the city for the short-term and long-term, too.
In contrast, school district school boards like Centinela Valley are a progressive-era relic which should be dispensed with altogether. Instead of trying to get the right people to represent a district, who in turn select a superintendent to supervise the schools at his (or the bureaucracy's) discretion, school choice would induce a better system of accountability, while permitting the high schools to operate as independent charters with a board of trustees, composed of parents, staff, and students in the school area. The political shenanigans pulling apart Centinela Valley fall fully on politicized district leadership and employee unions, both of which pursue interests contrary to the students' education and development, as well as the expectations of local parents who wan their best for their children.
While school boards remain in place, though, the larger issue of informed voter residents, combined with a media which can only investigate so much corruption at a time brings up a bigger problem. The security against misrule is publicity, per political philosopher Jeremy Bentham, but publicity means nothing if the public is not paying attention or does not care.
|City of Bell, circa 1910|
When the residents picked their food
Instead of getting picked on
as fodder for corruption