Ex-Calif city manager leaves volunteer parking job

The ousted former official accused of looting millions of dollars from the small, blue-collar city of Bell is out of another job — as a volunteer parking lot attendant for Huntington Beac...

The ousted former official accused of looting millions of dollars from the small, blue-collar city of Bell is out of another job — as a volunteer parking lot attendant for Huntington Beach's International Surf Museum.

Museum docent Kitty Willis said Robert Rizzo, who lives in Huntington Beach, had been volunteering to earn court-ordered community service hours after a drunken driving arrest last year.

Rizzo, who is charged with 55 counts of looting millions of taxpayer dollars from the city of Bell, is free on $2 million bail in that case. He did not return a call for comment.

Rizzo had been at the museum only a few days when Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez outed him in a sometimes sarcastic column Thursday. The column speculated that if the short, rotund former city manager climbed aboard a surfboard, he would look a lot like "Star Wars" villain Jabba the Hutt cruising the waves.

Soon after the column appeared Rizzo was gone.

"He's not here, and he's not going to volunteer here anymore," Willis said, adding Rizzo was never on the museum's payroll. She wouldn't say if Rizzo quit or was asked to leave.

When he was on Bell's payroll, Rizzo received an annual salary and benefits package of about $1.5 million a year.

Prosecutors say he was the ringleader of a scam in which the city illegally raised property taxes, sewer assessment fees and business license fees, illegally diverted money earmarked for street repairs and affordable housing and used it to pay themselves enormous salaries.

Rizzo and seven other current and former officials, including the mayor and mayor pro tem, face criminal charges. Bell, where one in six people lives in poverty, is in financial trouble, and three of its four City Council members are the targets of a March recall election.

In Huntington Beach, which proudly calls itself Surf City, Rizzo's task was to keep people who weren't patronizing the museum from parking in its tiny lot. Willis indicated he was doing a good job.

"People going to the museum were finally able to park in the parking lot," she said.

She added that his absence was quickly noticed on Thursday: Already several people not headed to the museum were seen sneaking into the lot.

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