Bell is one of the poorest cities in L.A. County. Photo: Robert J. Lopez
I was part of a team of Los Angeles Times reporters and editors that was awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize gold medal for public service for a series of stories exposing alleged government corruption in the City of Bell.
Our articles detailed how top officials in Bell, one of the poorest cities in Los Angeles County, enriched themselves with extraordinary salaries and benefits while illegally raising taxes on residents and resorting to other legally questionable schemes to raise revenue.
The stories we produced resulted in criminal charges against eight former officials and new government disclosure laws in cities and counties across California.
The Bell scandal began when The Times reported about the high salaries in summer 2010. I became involved in the investigation and worked with with Paloma Esquivel. Two of our investigative articles were submitted with The Times’ Pulitzer package. The articles revealed how city officials raised revenue from questionable tactics such as arbitrary fees on small business owners and seizing vehicles and property of people who allegedly violated municipal codes. Both pieces featured stories of residents who were victimized and relied on numerous public records. Here they are: