Unfortunately, unethical behavior is still alive and well in virtually every business enterprise and institution out there. And sometimes, the lines aren’t clearly drawn at all. Take the case of Bell, Calif., and estranged city manager Robert Rizzo. He’s suing the city for $1.5 million in back pay, benefits and interest because the city locked him out of his job (literally) when Rizzo was brought up on charges of fraud and misappropriation of public funds ($6 million worth) last year. Add to that the fact that Rizzo was compensated to the tune of $1.5 million a year for this post, and you’ve got some outraged citizens on your hands.
Ali Saleh, the recently elected mayor of the little municipality of Bell (it’s a suburb of LA that is ranked as the thirteenth smallest town in America, at 2.5 square miles), seems to understand this ethical rock-and-a-hard-place position. “The real atrocity is that tax payers have to respect due process spend precious tax dollars on defending ourselves from the same person who had a complete disregard for due process and misappropriated millions of taxpayer dollars,” Saleh was quoted as saying. Saleh and the City of Bell have been actively working to reform the municipality’s brand of government. You can’t help but commend them on the city’s motto: “Transparency. Openness. Good Government Practices.”
Undoubtedly the city felt that it was following its own codes of due process in not firing the city manager before cutting him off. Rizzo feels cheated out of the pay that was owed him under his contract. The city can probably claim that they don’t owe him anything, because, if he is found guilty of the alleged fraud, he violated his contract.
All this goes to show how fraud and unethical behavior can create a ripple effect that is difficult to overcome. Two wrongs definitely don’t make a right in this case. Just ask the citizens of Bell.