Bell, Ca.- Last week, the City of Bell filed a cross complaint before the Los Angeles County Superior Court to seek restitution from former Director of General Services, Eric Eggena. Eggena sued the city last month in an attempt to collect severance pay, back wages, and additional vacation and sick leave benefits allegedly owed to him upon his termination in October of 2010.
In 2002, Egenna was hired by Robert Rizzo, the former City of Bell Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), who has been criminally indicted by the LA County District Attorney’s Office and charged with 54 felony counts (including misappropriation of public funds, felony violations, and falsification of public records).
Egenna’s complaint alleges the City of Bell owes him back wages, severance pay, health care coverage for him and his family, over 2,600 hours in sick and vacation leave benefits, as well as payments towards his CalPERS pension. However, the city’s cross complaint clearly marks the new Bell council’s firm resolve to protect Bell and its taxpayers from the former Rizzo administration and to attempt to recover some of the estimated $20M in losses that the small southeastern city incurred during the scandal.
“Make no mistake, in my opinion, Egenna, under Rizzo’s blessing, knowingly abused the public’s trust and pillaged the city’s coffers with an egregious salary and benefits, including the accrual of vacation and sick leave at twice the rate of regular employees,” stated Bell City Mayor Ali Saleh.
“After all of this, he still has the audacity to return claiming the City of Bell owes him severance pay. Eggena and all of Rizzo’s cronies, need to listen up: the City of Bell is no longer theirs to pillage and we will not only fight their shameful claims, but we will aggressively and relentlessly pursue restitution for what, we feel, was stolen from the City of Bell.”
According to the cross complaint issued on behalf of the City, in 2002, Egenna was hired by Rizzo as a city prosecutor at an annual salary of $74,400. Within a span of a little more than five years, his compensation had skyrocketed more than 274%.
In 2006, Rizzo and Eggena began increasing Egenna’s compensation without seeking the required city council’s approval. Rizzo and Eggena agreed that the City would pay 75% of the full amount allowable towards Eggena’s deferred compensation. Eggena was only required to contribute 25% into the plan. Rizzo also authorized the City to purchase 5 additional years of CalPERS service credit on behalf of Eggena using nearly $113,000 in City funds to do so. CalPERS has since disallowed this service credit.
In 2008, Rizzo also agreed to pay Eggena’s employee share of FICA and Medicare contributions at a sum of nearly $15,000 annually. He also allowed Egenna to accrue sick and vacation leave at twice the rate of other employees.
Prior to his termination in October of 2010, Egenna’s salary as a Director of General Services and City Prosecutor had skyrocketed. His fringe benefits and payments were hidden from public view and distributed among various accounts that made it extremely difficult to discover.