San Luis Obispo’s former city manager Ken Hampian has been appointed as the acting chief administrative officer for the troubled Southern California city of Bell.
Hampian, who was appointed to the post for a 30-day period Wednesday night by the Bell City Council, was already at work Thursday morning reviewing applications for a longer-term interim manager.
The city became a national focal point last year after a Los Angeles Times investigation exposed the excessive salaries of its administrators and council.
That controversy later prompted State Controller John Chiang to require the salaries of all city and county elected officials and administrators be posted on a state website.
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The challenges that face Hampian are many. The federal Internal Revenue Service is investigating Bell for its handling of bonds and employee compensation packages. There is no existing management nor are there people designated to fill those posts on an interim basis. The financially troubled city does not have an adopted budget. Also, the newly seated council has been in office only about three months.
Hampian, who was asked by the International City/County Management Association to consider the post, will not receive a salary. Instead, the city of Bell will compensate him for lodging and travel and provide a cell phone, he said.
“The prior regime did a horrendous disservice to the community of Bell,” Hampian said. “They also did damage to the profession of city management and to public servants in general. This is an opportunity to rally around their challenges and show what honest, professional management can do for a community.”
Hampian said his main priority is to help the council find a longer-term interim city manager. He hopes to also encourage other professionals throughout California to volunteer their efforts to the city as it struggles to move forward.
Kevin Dugan, the association’s West Coast director, said it asked Hampian to fill the role because “he is a highly regarded city management professional with a tremendous reputation in regard to his professional skills, knowledge, experience and certainly integrity, which is very important in this case.”
Hampian, who was San Luis Obispo’s city manager from 2000 to 2009, retired after 20 years at City Hall and a total of 35 years in local government.
Bell’s former chief administrator, Robert Rizzo, was let go amid corruption charges, and the council voted last week to not extend its contract with Pedro Carrillo, who served as interim chief administrative officer for a year after Rizzo.
The city’s mayor, Ali Saleh, had stepped up to fill that position until Hampian was appointed Wednesday.
“Mr. Hampian started today at 8 a.m. and brought with him a team of experienced managers to help us find a longer-term (administrator) and to help us get our finances on track,” Saleh wrote in a blog post Tuesday to the community.
“This team is also working for free,” the mayor added. “While their stay in Bell will be brief (about one month long), I’ve already been able to observe the city moving forward, which has me doing a happy dance inside for the first time since I became mayor.”