Fired Bell, Calif., Official Eric Eggena Sues For $837,000 In Back Pay
No worker likes to lose pay -- especially when it's associated with unused sick pay or vacation time. But the case of former Bell, Calif., city prosecutor Eric Eggena is raising eyebrows because of the extraordinary amount he's seeking -- $837,000.
Eggena is suing his former employer, claiming that Bell owes the amount for unpaid severance, and 329 unused sick and vacation days, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Eggena was among several officials fired in 2010 after an investigation revealed that some of the city's employees were grossly overpaid. Eight of them, including former Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo (pictured above), now face criminal charges.
Eggena, whose total compensation was $421,000 when fired, isn't among those charged. But his home was searched as part of the Los Angeles County district attorney's efforts to uncover the alleged corruption.
"His name came up a lot during our investigation, and he certainly received a suspiciously high salary," Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman told the Times.
Eggena, who also served as Bell's director of general services, began working for Bell in 2002, earning $90,000 a year. But within eight years, he saw his salary triple, making him among the highest paid officials in the working class city of 36,000 people, about 10 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.
In addition to his astronomical pay, Eggena's employment contract contained an "extraordinary" fringe benefit that required the city to pay his portion of Medicare and Social Security taxes. The contract also stipulated that he accumulate double sick and vacation time, according to the Times.
Eggena is the second former Bell official to sue the city in as many months over pay. Former Police Chief Randy Adams, who made $457,000 a year -- nearly 50 percent more than L.A.'s chief of police -- claims that he was pushed out of his job and never agreed to surrender his severance.
The city was served with Eggena's lawsuit last week, though it was filed in June. It seeks 18 months of severance in addition to 192 days of vacation time and 137 sick days, which the former Bell official says that he's entitled to.
"I think it's simply outrageous," Bell City Attorney Anthony Taylor told the newspaper.
Eggena's attorney said his client's contract is valid and that the city must honor it, regardless of the terms.
The case of Bell officials' extraordinary pay came to light in July 2010, following an investigation by the Times. Two months later, California's attorney general sued eight current and former employees over the excessive salaries, and subsequently brought criminal charges, Fox News reports.
The mayor and all council members have since resigned or been driven from office.
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David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. The syndicated column appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide before it made its debut on DailyFinance in 2010. Schepp now continues that tradition at Aol Jobs, covering the jobs beat and providing readers insight and analysis into the nation's challenging employment scene.
Schepp holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver.
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