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California Attorney General Jerry Brown Jr. has subpoenaed records from Best Best & Krieger in an investigation of the pay packages for city officials in Bell, Calif., where a scandal involving high salaries has spiraled into possible civil and criminal actions and raised questions among officials in other nearby cities. Lawyers at the Riverside, Calif.-based firm serve as city attorneys in at least 30 municipalities in Southern California. On Monday, Mayor Ana Rosa Rizo of Maywood, Calif., announced that Best Best had resigned its contract to provide legal services to the city. During the past week, city officials in Downey, Calif., moved to end their contract with the firm. Covina, Calif., officials voted to keep the firm while cutting ties with Edward Lee, the partner who had been serving as city attorney. Lee, who joined Best Best in 2006, left the firm on Aug. 2. City officials in Bell voted last week to fire Lee and Best Best, according to news reports. “BB&K is working closely with their clients and believes that the cities that Ed Lee represented did what they felt was necessary until all the facts are known,” said a firm spokeswoman, Jennifer Bowles. Brown’s office, which launched an investigation of the Bell salaries on July 22 following news reports that the former city manager was paid more than $787,000 per year, its former police chief $457,000 and its former assistant city manager more than $376,000. All three have resigned. The investigation involves possible civil and criminal violations. Brown, who is running for governor, expanded his probe on Monday to include possible election fraud. He issued a “supplemental subpoena” for records relating to Best Best. Bell officials are expected to be deposed as part of that investigation on Aug. 19 and Aug. 20. Los Angeles County, Calif., District Attorney Steve Cooley, who is running for state attorney general, announced his own investigation on July 28. “Since March, my office has been conducting an investigation into allegations of malfeasance of Bell officials. The investigation has broadened into other areas of possible public corruption,” he said. When asked about both investigations, Bowles, the spokeswoman for Best Best, said: “We have received the paperwork from the Attorney General’s Office and are assisting in any way we can.” She declined to say whether the firm has retained counsel in the matter. Lee could not be reached for comment. In a written statement upon his resignation, he said: “Given the current situation in Bell, I cannot allow the lives of all the great attorneys and support people who work at BB&K to be affected by it, not to mention the many great clients of the firm.” Bell’s interim city attorney, James Casso, a principal in the Los Angeles office of Oakland, Calif.’s Meyers Nave Riback Silver & Wilson, did not return a call for comment. Bell officials hired him to replace Lee last week. Days earlier, officials in Downey voted during an emergency council meeting to fire Best Best and Lee from their contract. Both had been hired in 2007, said city council member Mario Guerra. Guerra said that he was “embarrassed” to have Downey associated with the scandal. “I wanted no association to do with the city of Bell and Mr. Lee’s work there,” he said. “I thought that’s not something that’s good for the city of Downey. I wanted to distance myself completely from the whole Bell situation.” Somebody at the firm should have known about “those outrageous salaries” in Bell, Guerra said. “I want more from my law firm and my city attorney. I expect red flags to come up.” He said Downey is interviewing several law firms to replace Best Best. In Covina, officials were considering a similar move when Lee resigned. The city has opted to stay with Best Best. On Monday, Maywood’s mayor said in a written statement that it was “best for the City to move forward with a new City Attorney team.” In June, Maywood took the drastic step of firing most of its city employees, turning over much of the municipal work to nearby Bell. Not all cities have considered ridding themselves of Best Best. Chris Hughes, city manager of Ontario, Calif., said the firm continues to handle all the city’s legal matters. “They’re longtime city attorneys. We’re pleased with the work they’ve done,” he said.

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