A police memo from a California city under federal investigation for overzealous motorist prosecution appears to outline a game in which officers competed to write tickets, impound vehicles and arrest drivers.
The memo, from scandal-racked Bell, Calif., is entitled “Bell Police Department Baseball Game,” and assigns “singles,” “doubles,” “triples,” and “home runs” to various violations, The Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
While department superiors quashed the memo when it circulated several years ago, it is now the first evidence that Bell police were engaged in an effort to go after motorists.
A copy of the memo obtained by The Times showed a list of violations with their point values, and fine print at the bottom of the page reading, “Scoring calculated as obtained and not as an overall product for the day worked. Honor system in place and violation will result in one day suspension. Non performers sent for minor league rehab stint.”
The Justice Department, along with local prosecutors, is investigating claims that police were told to write tickets to drum up revenue for the city, which was paying exorbitant salaries to its officials.
Eight past and present Bell officials were arrested in September on charges of illegally diverting property taxes and other funds to pay themselves and others huge salaries.
Mayor Oscar Hernandez, Vice Mayor Teresa Jacobo, Councilman George Mirabal and former council members George Cole, Luis Artiga and Victor Bello are charged with taking part in a scam with former City Manager Robert Rizzo and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia that looted the city of $5.5 million.
The scandal put Bell as much as $4.5 million debt and on the brink of bankruptcy.
Rizzo had an annual salary and compensation package of $1.5 million, and Spaccia was paid $376,288 a year, while the council members each received about $100,000 a year.
All have plead not guilty.
During a preliminary hearing that lasted eight days, defense attorneys argued that the council members earned their salaries, working full time on the city's behalf, not only attending monthly council meeting but taking part in numerous community projects that benefited low-income people, the aged and others in the city where one in six people live in poverty.
"The bottom line is they worked very hard for the city, they gave their heart to the city and they were paid a fair salary by the city," Hernandez's lawyer, Stanley L. Friedman, said during his closing argument.
But in the end, Superior Court Judge Henry Hall ruled Wednesday that none of that counted. What mattered, the judge said, was that the six had illegally raised their salaries to 20 times above what state law allows and would have to stand trial on nearly two dozen felony counts of misappropriation of public funds. He ordered them to return to court March 2 for arraignment.
Judges have yet to rule whether Rizzo and Spaccia will stand trial.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.