In the Northwest, Bob Rizzo is known as a Thoroughbred owner whose horses did well at Emerald Downs and whose 10-acre Auburn farm is an image of genteel country living. But in Bell, Calif., Rizzo is the new symbol of government corruption and greed.
Rizzo is a key figure in a scandal in which California state auditors and prosecutors allege Bell officials mismanaged more than $50 million in bond money, levied illegal taxes and paid exorbitant salaries to its leaders.
The audit was made public a day after Rizzo and seven other current and former officials of the blue-collar Los Angeles suburb were arrested for misappropriation of public funds and other charges.
Rizzo was singled out for criticism in the state controller's audit, which said that, as city manager, he had total control of city funds and used some of the money to inflate his salary and pay off personal loans.
Rizzo, 56, was making nearly $800,000 a year — almost twice as much as President Obama — when he resigned earlier this year. His total compensation package in Bell — one of Los Angeles County's poorest cities — reached $1.5 million a year.
At Emerald Downs, however, "He was just one of the owners," said Dave Nielsen, who runs the racetrack 's Turf Club.
"He wasn't flashy. He was a very nice man. Just an ordinary Joe. I was shocked to hear the allegations."