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ICMA: Former Bell, California, Manager's Sentence Underscores Need for Local Government Ethics and Transparency

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The sentencing of former Bell, California, city manager Robert Rizzo to 12 years in state prison after being found guilty of 69 charges of public corruption underscores the critical need for local government transparency and advocacy of a culture of ethics within local organizations, according to the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and its official California state affiliate, CAL-ICMA.

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As a result of the Bell salary scandal, the ICMA Executive Board publicly censured and expelled Rizzo from membership on December 11, 2010.  The board found that Rizzo personally benefitted from the misuse of city funds; failed in his fiduciary responsibility to ensure that public funds were legally and properly used for the public's benefit; did not fully and accurately disclose his compensation in a transparent manner; and failed in his obligation to ensure that city matters were transparent and fully communicated to the council and public. 

To maintain public confidence and trust, ICMA members are expected to adhere to the highest standards of ethical conduct. The 2010 action to publicly censure and expel Rizzo was the strongest action available to the ICMA Board, which considered the case following a thorough investigation by the ICMA Committee on Professional Conduct.

"As stated before, Mr. Rizzo's actions, while deeply disturbing and unconscionable, were an anomaly," said ICMA Executive Director Robert J. O'Neill, Jr.  "He was an outlier among members of the local government management profession, who are dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and personal relationships, as required by our stringently enforced Code of Ethics."            

ICMA promotes ethical conduct through its Code of Ethics, training for local governments, publications on ethics issues, technical assistance, and advice to members. In response to the Bell controversy, in October 2010, the ICMA Executive Board adopted the ICMA Guidelines for Compensation, a set of ethical standards for establishing the compensation of professional local government managers, placing greater emphasis on transparency, and providing a roadmap for managers and their elected officials in establishing and negotiating compensation contracts. The guidelines are a proactive statement of the professional responsibilities of fairness and transparency and are used by city, town, and county managers and their elected officials in local governments throughout the U.S.

ICMA and Cal-ICMA received accolades from the City of Bell for the assistance the organizations provided to that community following the 2010 scandal.  ICMA and Cal-ICMA, along with several other local government organizations, lead an effort to assist the newly reformed city council to obtain professional interim leadership for that community.  The city celebrated its rebirth at a special press conference on August 24, 2011, during which ICMA and Cal-ICMA, the California League of Cities, the California City Management Foundation, and other regional and national organizations were praised for their contributions to the city's success. The City of Bell continues to improve under the leadership of professional city manager and ICMA member Doug Willmore

About ICMA 
ICMA, the International City/County Management Association, advances professional local government worldwide. The organization's mission is to create excellence in local governance by developing and fostering professional management to build sustainable communities that improve people's lives.

About Cal-ICMA
Cal-ICMA, the "official" California state affiliate with ICMA, is a collaboration of the California League of Cities City Managers' Department, the California City Managers Foundation, the Municipal Management Associations of Northern and Southern California (Assistants), the California County CAOs, and the California Council of Governments directors plus members of the academic community and others ICMA members throughout the state.

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