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More details emerge in drunk driving case

July 29, 2010

The city manager of Bell, who has been under fire since a Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that he earns $787,000 a year, was arrested in March on suspicion of drunk driving after he allegedly crashed into a residential mailbox in Huntington Beach.

Robert Rizzo, 56, was arrested in March with a blood-alcohol level of .28, more than three times the legal limit, in the 1900 block of Pine Street at 9:50 p.m. March 6, officials said.

He was allegedly so intoxicated and stumbling around "that the officer could not have him finish the field sobriety test," said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff at the Orange County district attorney's office.

Rizzo, a Huntington Beach resident, was one of three city administrators, along with four councilmembers, who caused outrage after the Times uncovered that they made extremely high salaries for the small, poor city in Los Angeles. Rizzo agreed to step down Friday and will leave his office in August without a severance package, the Times reported.

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A resident called police after a man, alleged to be Rizzo, crashed into their mailbox and then drove into an alley, said Lt. Russell Reinhart.

Rizzo, who was charged with misdemeanor drunk driving, faces a minimum of three years' informal probation, about $15,000 in fines, enrollment in an alcoholic education program and up to six months in jail, officials said.

The district attorney's office is asking for additional penalties for the high blood-alcohol level, Schroeder said.

Rizzo pleaded not guilty June 8 and is expected back in court to begin pre-trial Aug. 5 at the West Justice Center in Westminster.

Rizzo was also cited in Huntington Beach on March 12 for talking on his cell phone while driving, according to court records.

— Britney Barnes

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