Randy Adams had him­self de­clared dis­abled even as he was hired for the job.

Los Angeles Times - - Front Page - Paul Pringle

For­mer Bell Po­lice Chief Randy Adams had him­self de­clared dis­abled even as he was hired for the post, a move that could make him mil­lions of dol­lars in tax-free pen­sion in­come when he re­tires, ac­cord­ing to records and in­ter­views.

An agree­ment that Adams struck with for­mer Bell City Ad­min­is­tra­tor Robert Rizzo, who was ar­rested on cor­rup­tion charges Tues­day, says that the in­com­ing chief suf­fered the lin­ger­ing ef­fects of back, knee and neck in­juries sus­tained years ear­lier and that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity would sup­port his planned ap­pli­ca­tion for a dis­abil­ity pen­sion.

He filed for a less lu­cra­tive non-dis­abil­ity re­tire­ment as he pre­pared to leave his job as Glen­dale po­lice chief. That ap­pli­ca­tion was ap­proved, but he re­scinded it the same month his ser­vice of­fi­cially ended in Glen­dale and he went to work for Bell in July 2009, Glen­dale and state pen­sion of­fi­cials say.

Pen­sion ex­perts and Adams’ for­mer em­ploy­ers ques­tioned the le­gal­ity of the Bell agree­ment, in part be­cause it meant the city de­ter­mined him un­fit for the po­si­tion’s full-time du­ties and em­ployed him any­way.

“He was not dis­abled,” said Glen­dale City Man­ager

Jim Star­bird, who was Adams’ boss un­til he left for Bell. “I never heard of some­one go­ing to work for a city and hav­ing that [dis­abil­ity] de­ter­mi­na­tion made go­ing in. I don’t know how you hire some­one who is dis­abled and not fit for the job.”

Adams’ at­tor­ney, Mark Pa­chow­icz, said his 59-yearold client was dis­abled and the agree­ment was de­signed to en­sure that he would not have to fight Bell 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.”

Dis­abil­ity pen­sions are de­signed for em­ploy­ees who must give up a job be­cause of a work-re­lated in­jury. Those who qual­ify do not have to pay taxes on 50% of their re­tire­ment ben­e­fits, which is in­tended to com­pen­sate them for lost earn­ings, said spokesper­sons for the Cal­i­for­nia Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees’ Re­tire­ment Sys­tem.

“You’re only sup­posed to re­ceive a dis­abil­ity re­tire­ment if you are dis­abled and un­able to per­form the nor­mal du­ties of your job,” said spokesman Ed Fong. “If that is not the case, it would be fraud.”

Un­like Rizzo and seven other cur­rent and for­mer Bell of­fi­cials, Adams has not been charged by Los An­ge­les County pros­e­cu­tors in this week’s sweep­ing cor­rup­tion case.

Rizzo, Adams and As­sis­tant City Ad­min­is­tra­tor An­gela Spac­cia stepped down from their posts af­ter The Times dis­closed their high salaries in July.

Adams was paid $457,000 a year in Bell, more than dou­ble his salary in Glen­dale, whose po­lice force is many times larger. The jump in pay nor­mally would grant Adams re­tire­ment ben­e­fits cal­cu­lated at $411,000, al­though CalPERS has said it will not ap­prove pay­ments to him, Rizzo and other for­mer Bell of­fi­cials un­til au­thor­i­ties have de­ter­mined that no laws were bro­ken.

With the dis­abil­ity pen­sion, Adams would not have to pay state or fed­eral taxes on an es­ti­mated $205,500 per year, ac­cord­ing to CalPERS.

In a civil law­suit filed last week, the state at­tor­ney gen­eral ac­cused Rizzo, Adams and oth­ers of be­ing part of a broad scheme to loot Bell’s trea­sury. The suit said Rizzo hired Adams de­spite be­liev­ing he “was not able to fully per­form” his du­ties.

It also took aim at the city’s prom­ise to sup­port a dis­abil­ity re­tire­ment and to pro­vide life­time health­care ben­e­fits to Adams and his de­pen­dents, with no vest­ing pe­riod. The suit did not specif­i­cally chal­lenge his claimed dis­abil­ity, de­tail how much he stood to ben­e­fit from it or re­fer to his al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ous fil­ing for a non-dis­abil­ity pen­sion.

The one-page pen­sion agree­ment signed by Rizzo says that Adams had pre­vi­ous knee and back surg­eries as well as a neck in­jury, and all were job-re­lated. It says Adams has “lim­i­ta­tions to full-time law en­force­ment duty and is dis­abled from heavy lift­ing” and “ex­pe­ri­ences flare-ups of de­bil­i­tat­ing back pain and numb­ness in his left foot,” re­sult­ing from the back in­jury.

The doc­u­ment in­di­cates that the back in­jury led Adams to file a work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion claim against Glen­dale and his two prior em­ploy­ers, Simi Val­ley and Ven­tura, and that it was be­ing “lit­i­gated” by the cities. Of­fi­cials for the three cities said they set­tled the case. Ven­tura City Man­ager Rick Cole said the amount paid to Adams was $45,000, most of it from Simi Val­ley.

Pa­chow­icz said Adams had back surgery in 2003 and re­turned to work in Glen­dale two weeks later. Star­bird said Adams never told him that his back trou­ble left him un­able to per­form full-time du­ties. He said the work­ers’ comp claim would not have qual­i­fied him for a dis­abil­ity pen­sion.

In ad­di­tion, re­cently re­leased records show that Adams ini­tially signed sep­a­rate con­tracts that split his pay be­tween two po­si­tions: po­lice chief and “spe­cial po­lice coun­sel” to Rizzo. The con­tracts are dated April

2009, but Pa­chow­icz said they were dated in­cor­rectly and were ac­tu­ally signed this year. He said Rizzo told Adams he wanted to cre­ate the po­lice coun­sel po­si­tion in an­tic­i­pa­tion of hav­ing him head a re­gional law en­force­ment agency that Rizzo hoped to launch in south­east L.A. County.

Au­thor­i­ties have ac­cused Rizzo of try­ing to hide his $787,000 salary by di­vid­ing it among sev­eral job ti­tles. Pa­chow­icz said that the two con­tracts Adams signed were not an at­tempt to con­ceal his full salary.

Ac­cord­ing to the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s law­suit, Spac­cia in­structed Adams not to state in his con­tract how many pay pe­ri­ods were in­cluded in a year.

“We have crafted our Agree­ments care­fully so we do not draw at­ten­tion to our pay,” Spac­cia wrote to Adams, the law­suit says. “The word Pay Pe­riod is used and not de­fined in or­der to pro­tect you from some­one tak­ing the time to add up your salary.”

Spac­cia has been de­scribed by city of­fi­cials as a close friend of Adams who first worked with him in Ven­tura. Pa­chow­icz said they were not that close but that Spac­cia was the Bell of­fi­cial who re­cruited Adams for the job.

Star­bird said no one from Bell City Hall called him to in­quire about Adams’ dis­abil­ity claim or his suit­abil­ity for the job. As some­one who hired Adams six years be­fore and con­tin­ued to think highly of him, Star­bird said, he had coun­seled Adams not to work for Bell be­cause of its his­tory of cor­rup­tion.

“I said, ‘Why Bell?’ and he said the pack­age was too good to refuse,” Star­bird re­counted.

“What’s dis­ap­point­ing is that Randy didn’t rec­og­nize this sit­u­a­tion and that it was go­ing to cast him and us in a bad light. There was a level of cor­rup­tion in Bell that he cap­i­tal­ized on. He lost his val­ues along the way.”

Gina Fer­azzi

FOR­MER TOP COP Adams has not been charged in the Bell probe.

Liz O. Baylen

UN­DER IN­VES­TI­GA­TION: Then-Po­lice Chief Randy Adams at­tends a Bell City Coun­cil meet­ing in July. He was paid $457,000 a year in Bell, more than dou­ble his salary in Glen­dale, whose po­lice force is much larger.

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