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Fired official from Bell, California, sues for $837G in sick, vacation pay

Several Bell officials face criminal charges, including (from l.) Robert Rizzo, Angela Spaccia, Victor Bello and former Mayor Oscar Hernandez. Here they are seen at a Los Angeles County Superior Court bail hearing. (AP)AP

A former employee of Bell, Calif., which made headlines for paying enormous salaries to a slew of officials who now face criminal charges, is suing the city for $837,000 in unused vacation and sick time.

Eric Eggena, who was director of general services in the small Los Angeles suburb, was paid as much as $421,000 a year in total compensation after starting at just $90,000 in 2002, according to the Los Angeles Times. Although he was not among the eight city officials who were arrested in a criminal probe, he was fired when the scandal broke.

"His name came up a lot during our investigation, and he certainly received a suspiciously high salary," Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman told the Los Angeles Times.

"He certainly received a suspiciously high salary."

- Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman

Eggena wants to paid for 329 unused sick and vacation days.

The case, which made the city of 35,000 a poster child for public-sector pay packages run amok, came to light in a Times investigation in July 2010. Two months later, the state Attorney General sued eight current and former employees over the excessive salaries, and subsequently brought criminal charges. The mayor and all council members have since resigned or been driven from office.

The city paid the biggest compensation package -- $1.5 million per year -- to Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo. Former Police Chief Randy Adams had a salary of $457,000 a year, and he has also sued the city for severance pay. Rizzo, his chief assistant, Angela Spaccia, and five former City Council members face felony corruption charges for allegedly looting the city to pay for their astronomical salaries and generous retirement benefits, which the council approved.

Former Director of Administrative Services Lourdes Garcia, who earned more than $400,000 per year, is testifying against her former colleagues in exchange for immunity. 

The city was served with Eggena's lawsuit last week. An attorney for Bell, Anthony Taylor, calls the demand outrageous.

Eggena's attorney, Richard Shinee, said the city must honor the contract, regardless of the terms.

"This guy was on the team that helped the city substantially with regard to revenue and city housing and was compensated," Shinee told the paper.

Click for more at Los Angeles Times.

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