By Ashley Orona
Bell — The city manager has denied any wrongdoing after the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office raided his home seeking information for an investigation concerning a large development in the city of Industry that never broke ground.
Paul Philips was city manager for the city of Industry from June 2015 to March 2018 before becoming city manager in Bell in October 2018. While working for the city of Industry, Philips was involved in discussions with the San Gabriel Valley Water and Power and several other cities to build a 450-megawatt solar farm on Tres Hermanos Ranch. The project cost the city of Industry at least $20 million and was never built.
The district attorney’s Bureau of Investigation raided multiple homes and businesses in connection with the failed project on Aug. 12, including Philips’ Cerritos residence, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. An earlier investigation by the newspaper found numerous errors and suspicious billings from the company to the city of Industry.
Even after project costs ballooned, Philips didn’t require San Gabriel Valley Water and Power to disclose their investors or members before disbursing payments.
Philips said in a press release that he was not city manager when the project or investigation started. He also said that he is voluntarily cooperating with the district attorney’s investigation.
Bell and other cities in Southeast Los Angeles have a history of corruption that has made residents distrustful of government officials and media, according to a report by the SELA Collaborative.
The Bell City Council held a closed session meeting Aug. 20 after news broke about the raid on the Philips home and after receiving multiple inquiries from the public. The council decided that since Philips has not yet been accused of any “malfeasance” as part of the investigation, he is still fit to act as city manager for the city, according to a press release.
However, residents are not satisfied with the City Council’s response. They are demanding that elected officials hold the city manager accountable for his actions given the history of corruption in Bell.
“City Council should be held accountable for those they put in power and not allow Bell to go back to the Rizzo era,” resident Jason Vega said, referring to Robert Rizzo, who was the Bell city manager who oversaw an era of corruption for which he was sentenced to 12 years in state prison.
Bell City Council members did not respond to repeated requests for comment.