BELL, Calif. – The one-time police chief in the corruption-plagued city of Bell declared himself disabled when he took the job last year in a move that could someday earn him a tax-free state pension worth millions of dollars, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
Former Bell police Chief Randy Adams said he suffered lingering problems from back, knee and neck injuries sustained years earlier.
Adams struck a deal with Bell's then-city administrator Robert Rizzo under which the tiny Los Angeles suburb would support Adams' application for a state disability pension when he retired, the newspaper said.
The one-page agreement cited by the Times said Adams has "limitations to full-time law enforcement duty and is disabled from heavy lifting." In addition, he "experiences flare-ups of debilitating back pain and numbness in his left foot."
The newspaper said Adams had filed for a non-disability retirement as he prepared to leave his job as Glendale police chief. He rescinded that application when he left that post and took the job in Bell in July 2009.
"He was not disabled," Glendale City Manager Jim Starbird told the Times. "I don't know how you hire someone who is disabled and not fit for the job."
Adams, 59, and Rizzo resigned earlier this year after word of their hefty salaries spurred public outrage.
Rizzo and seven other current and former city leaders were arrested Tuesday on charges of misappropriating $5.5 million in city funds.
Adams, who was making $457,000 a year when he stepped down, has not been charged with a crime.
Attorney Mark Pachowicz, who represents Adams, said his client is disabled and the Bell agreement was simply an effort to ensure he wouldn't have to fight for a medical pension.
"Mr. Adams wanted to make sure that the city was well aware of his physical capabilities," Pachowicz said. "He made all of that clear and upfront. He didn't want the city to come back and say we didn't know you had a bad back."
District Attorney Steve Cooley said there was no evidence the former police chief illegally obtained his annual salary — an amount that is $150,000 more than received by the Los Angeles chief of police.
However, the state attorney general filed a lawsuit last week accusing Adams, Rizzo and six other current and former officials of Bell of defrauding taxpayers by granting themselves salaries that were far higher than warranted for the jobs they were doing.
If Adams wins a state disability pension, he would be allowed to avoid paying state or federal taxes on 50 percent of his estimated $411,000 a year in retirement benefits.
However, state pension officials have said they will not approve payments for him or other Bell leaders until it is determined that no laws were broken.
"You're only supposed to receive a disability retirement if you are disabled and unable to perform the normal duties of your job," said Ed Fong, a spokesman for the California Public Employees' Retirement System. "If that is not the case, it would be fraud."
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com