Sun: Scandal-scarred cities find home after corruption

It hurt.

Bell native Alicia Romero said hearing her hometown being branded one of the most corrupt cities in America was devastating.

“We’re so much better than that,” she thought in 2010, after the disclosure that the then-city manager was receiving a seven-figure compensation package in this blue-collar town with fewer than 40,000 residents.

Today, Romero serves as mayor of the little community along the Los Angeles River, southeast of downtown L.A. And while Bell has yet to fully repair its tarnished image, it is financially sound after coming to the brink of bankruptcy, Romero said.

Current City Manager Howard W. Brown Jr. said in a phone interview Friday that Bell, with a $26 million budget, has since built up a reserve of $18 million.

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Mike Foster