10/24/2010 6:15PM

Owner involved in Calif. financial scandal has license suspended


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The Hollywood Park board of stewards on Sunday suspended the owner’s license of Robert A. Rizzo, the former city manager of Bell, Calif., who was arrested in September on 53 counts of misappropriating public funds.

Stewards Kim Sawyer, Scott Chaney and Tom Ward issued the two-paragraph statement after Rizzo failed to appear at a hearing on Saturday to respond to charges of conduct detrimental to horse racing.

Rizzo, 56, has been at the center of a months-long financial scandal in Bell, where top city officials awarded themselves with lavish salaries and pensions. Rizzo resigned as city manager in July. He was arrested on Sept. 21 and charged with 53 felony counts of misappropriation of public funds and for altering and falsifying records.

Rizzo, who lived in Huntington Beach, Calif., raced a small stable of Thoroughbreds primarily at Emerald Downs in Washington and in Northern California. His most recent starter was Dat’s Dream, who finished third in a $4,000 claimer at Golden Gate Fields on Oct. 3. Rizzo’s Parkbench won a $4,000 claimer at Golden Gate Fields on Sept. 25. In 2007, Rizzo campaigned Irene’s Bonus Baby, who won the Barbara Shinpoch Stakes at Emerald Downs in 2006.

Rizzo was released on a $2 million bail on Oct. 7. Along with seven former and current city officials of Bell, Rizzo pleaded not guilty to charges on Oct. 21. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 8. Bell is a working-class city southwest of downtown Los Angeles.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times in July, Rizzo had an annual salary of $800,000 and a compensation package of approximately $1.5 million.