• The Failure of Governance in Bell, California:

    Big-time Corruption in a Small Town

    In the late 2000s, the small Southern California town of Bell erupted in a scandal that revealed a truly astonishing level of municipal corruption— described by Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley as “corruption on steroids.” This book details how Bell was rendered vulnerable to such massive malfeasance by a disengaged public, lack of established ethical norms, absence of effective checks and balances, and minimal coverage by an overextended area news media. It is a grim and nearly unbelievable story. By considering factors arising from both theory and practice, Reilly makes clear why the sad saga of Bell, California, represents both a case study and a warning.

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    "This book replete with scandalous details, as well as insightful interpretations and suggestions for reform..." -U.S Rep. Dina Titus, 1st District of Nevada; emeritus professor of political science, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

    "Thom Reilly provides an in-depth analysis of the sordid details and broad schemes of this massive corruption." -Chester A. Newland, Senior Professor of Public Administration, University of the Paci c McGeorge School of Law

    "Virtually every page prompts substantive discussion topics for the reader. This is a must-read not only for students of government, administration and public policy, but for every concerned citizen." -Kathryn Landreth, former United States Attorney for the District of Nevada

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  • Pensions. Policies, New Reforms and Current Challenges

    The ongoing global financial crisis, coupled with the continued dramatic increases in life expectancy, have escalated the concerns countries have regarding the sustainability of their pension systems and how these retirement schemes will be financed. From 1998 to 2008, close to 30 countries embarked on privatizing reforms to their pension programs. Some of these countries introduced new pension reforms directed at private individual accounts while reducing the size of the state social security system. The focus of other reforms during this period varied but was primarily aimed at strengthening basic protection for economically at-risk older individuals, increasing benefit coverage and/or improving the overall fiscal sustainability of these systems. However, the move towards greater coverage and sustainability was interrupted by the worldwide financial meltdown. This has led to a reassessment of pension systems and reform approaches. This volume was assembled to review the status of pension reforms globally and to gain a glimpse of the trends emerging as countries adjust to the new age of macroeconomic worldwide uncertainty. The chapters in this volume provide concise, clear and dispassionate discussions on these trends and reforms as well as frank appraisals of the consequences of alternative policies. Experts from Europe, the United States and the emerging economies of Brazil, China and India approach pension reform and reassessment from different perspectives; however, each provide forthright analyses and assessment of the consequences of the “new normal”.

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  • Rethinking Public Sector Compensation

    Designed as a comprehensive overview of public sector compensation, the book addresses strategies for change, with the author warning that failure of the profession to address this issue will ultimately lead to citizens taking matters in their own hands. The author's issues-oriented approach addresses his core message-that the escalation of public sector compensation is impacting the ability of government to meet its core responsibility and the failure of government to address this has serious consequences. Not just a critique, the book presents context, analysis, and suggestions for reform.

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    ""This provocative analysis documents mutation away from ideals of governmental service devoted to public interests into a political culture of public employment in principal pursuit of self interests. It shows in detail how personal entitlements of many public officials and employees have been greatly expanded in high disregard of future sustainability." -Chester A. Newland, Senior Professor of Public Administration, University of the Paci c McGeorge School of Law

    "Key policy makers and individuals would be remiss not to include a detailed review of the public sector in the Nation’s debate about compensation and the financial crisis. Thom Reilly’s thoughtful analysis of the shift in culture and compensation in the public sector reveals nuances that only a long-standing, executive-level civil servant could provide. This informed perspective, coupled with insightful and balanced analysis, provides a uniquely comprehensive look at one of the most critical issues of our day. Rethinking Public –Sector Compensation: What Ever Happened to the Public Interest’ should be required reading for policy-makers, students and individuals who desire clear information from which to guide opinions, legislative and regulatory changes." -Heather H. Murren, CFA, Former Commissioner Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission

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ABOUT ME

Dr. Thom Reilly is the director of Morrison Institute for Public Policy and professor in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA).

He is a former county executive for Clark County, Nevada (the Las Vegas Valley), where he provided both regional and municipal-type services. As CEO, he was responsible for the fiscal management of the County’s $5.8 billion budget and administrative oversight of close to 12,000 employees.

Reilly also has extensive experience in the private sector serving as managing principal of The Reilly Group , a management consulting firm and is former vice president of social responsibility at Caesars Entertainment, Inc.

Dr. Reilly has held senior administrative position in the Nevada System of Higher Education serving as Vice-Chancellor of the Health Sciences System and with the State of Nevada, overseeing income maintenance programs and the statewide child welfare system. He also was a former Director and Professor for the School of Social Work at San Diego State University.

He has authored numerous published works on public pay and benefits, governance, HIV and child welfare. He and his work have appeared on NPR’s “Here and Now,” CNN Money, Wall Street Journal Radio, Fox Business News, and in The New York Times, The Guardian, Law 360, Governing, Businessweek and The Associated Press.

Reilly received his master’s and doctorate of public administration from the University of Southern California (USC). He earned his master of social work at ASU; and a bachelor in social work from the University of Memphis.

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BOOKS

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“How could this have happened?” The question still lingers among officials and residents of the small southern California town of Bell. Corruption is hardly an isolated challenge to the governance of America’s cities. But following decades of benign obscurity, Bell witnessed the emergence of a truly astonishing level of public wrongdoing – a level succinctly described by Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley as “corruption on steroids.”

Even discounting the enormous sums involved – the top administrator paid himself nearly $800,000 a year in a town with a $35,000 average income – this was no ordinary failure of governance. The picture that emerges from years of federal, state and local investigations, trials, depositions and media accounts is of an elaborate culture of corruption and deceit created and sustained by top city administrators, councilmembers, police officers, numerous municipal employees and consultants.

The Failure of Governance in Bell California: Big-Time Corruption in a Small Town details how Bell was rendered vulnerable to such massive malfeasance by a poorly educated and disengaged public, lack of established ethical norms, absence of effective checks and balances, and minimal coverage by an overextended area news media. It is a grim and nearly unbelievable story.

Yet even these factors fail to fully explain how such large-scale corruption could have arisen. More specifically, how did it occur within a structure – the council-manager form of government – that had been deliberately designed to promote good governance? Why were so many officials and employees prepared to participate in or overlook the ongoing corruption? To what degree can theories of governance, such as contagion theory or the “rover bandit” theme, explain the success of such blatant wrongdoing?

The Failure of Governance, by Arizona State University Professor Thom Reilly – himself former manager of Clark County, Nevada – pursues answers to these and related questions through an analysis of municipal operations that will afford the reader deeper insight into the inner workings of city governments – corrupt and otherwise. By considering factors arising from both theory and practice, Reilly makes clear, in other words, why the sad saga of Bell, California represents both a case study and a warning.    

“Reilly’s excellent account of corruption in local government is written with the expertise of a scholar who is uent in theory and the acumen of a practitioner who has witnessed such behavior up close and personal. This book replete with scandalous details, as well as insightful interpretations and suggestions for reform, will have broad appeal with the general public, for local administrators and in the classroom.” -U.S Rep. Dina Titus, 1st District of Nevada; emeritus professor of political science, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

“Far beyond wildly unimaginable ction, this reality-based book is an importantly great read on public affairs. It tells the story of a decade of Big Time Corruption in Bell, California – years of self-serving exercise of power shared among of cials in deliberately agrant violation of legal standards and other fundamentals of public service. Beyond that, Bell is also a sad case of sustained failure of professional, civic, legal, academic, and other institutions upon which society depends for responsible public affairs. As a former professional manager of Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada, and now a leading public-policy academician, Thom Reilly provides an in-depth analysis of the sordid details and broad schemes of this massive corruption. His deeply informed analysis of The Failure of Governance in Bell, California, warrants study by civic leaders, political of cials, professional local-government managers, and students who hope to enter these public-service roles. It provides swift and hopefully lasting learning about abhorrent practices of all-too-easy corruption, thereby elevating understanding of necessities of elevated aspirations and practices of responsible government and other public affairs.” -Chester A. Newland, Senior Professor of Public Administration, University of the Paci c McGeorge School of Law; Duggan Distinguished Professor of Public Administration Emeritus, University of Southern California

“Thom Reilly depicts the almost unbelievable levels of greed and corruption that brought an entire municipal government to its knees. His incisive narrative not only carefully details the many enabling conditions that allowed this brazen looting of a small, vulnerable community to occur, but also skillfully incorporates an analysis of cultural norms and governmental structures that historically have been designed to deter corruption. Virtually every page prompts substantive discussion topics for the reader. This is a must-read not only for students of government, administration and public policy, but for every concerned citizen. The account of the systematic and unchallenged dismantling of checks and balances and external safeguards against graft serves as a cautionary tale to anyone who thinks it couldn’t happen in their community.” -Kathryn Landreth, former United States Attorney for the District of Nevada

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In his book, Reilly states that the current system is unsustainable and reform must include more transparency,education and engagement of the public as well as:

  • Implementing changes and scaling back benefits to public sector pension and other post retirement options like moving public employees to a 401 (k) style plan or hybrid model that is portable from employer to employer;
  • Eliminating components of the civil service system that governs public pay so the focus is centered on rewarding performance, innovation and entrepreneurial thinking; rather than the current system that is skewed too heavily towards time-served and job security; and
  • Prohibiting conflicts of interest among elected official, public managers and employee unions in awarding compensation and benefits

In addition to suggested reform, Reilly offers two unique and valuable features in his the book including a detailed model of public-versus-private sector compensation, constructed to gauge the cost of lifetime compensation, and his model of the "Iron Triangle" to illustrate how elected politicians, management and labor representatives engage in nontransparent discussions involving public pay and benefits.

ABOUT BOOK   |   REVIEWS

BUY NOW

In his book, Reilly states that the current system is unsustainable and reform must include more transparency,education and engagement of the public as well as:

  • Implementing changes and scaling back benefits to public sector pension and other post retirement options like moving public employees to a 401 (k) style plan or hybrid model that is portable from employer to employer;
  • Eliminating components of the civil service system that governs public pay so the focus is centered on rewarding performance, innovation and entrepreneurial thinking; rather than the current system that is skewed too heavily towards time-served and job security; and
  • Prohibiting conflicts of interest among elected official, public managers and employee unions in awarding compensation and benefits

In addition to suggested reform, Reilly offers two unique and valuable features in his the book including a detailed model of public-versus-private sector compensation, constructed to gauge the cost of lifetime compensation, and his model of the "Iron Triangle" to illustrate how elected politicians, management and labor representatives engage in nontransparent discussions involving public pay and benefits.

""This provocative analysis documents mutation away from ideals of governmental service devoted to public interests into a political culture of public employment in principal pursuit of self interests. It shows in detail how personal entitlements of many public officials and employees have been greatly expanded in high disregard of future sustainability." -Chester A. Newland, Senior Professor of Public Administration, University of the Paci c McGeorge School of Law

"Key policy makers and individuals would be remiss not to include a detailed review of the public sector in the Nation’s debate about compensation and the financial crisis. Thom Reilly’s thoughtful analysis of the shift in culture and compensation in the public sector reveals nuances that only a long-standing, executive-level civil servant could provide. This informed perspective, coupled with insightful and balanced analysis, provides a uniquely comprehensive look at one of the most critical issues of our day. Rethinking Public –Sector Compensation: What Ever Happened to the Public Interest’ should be required reading for policy-makers, students and individuals who desire clear information from which to guide opinions, legislative and regulatory changes." -Heather H. Murren, CFA, Former Commissioner Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission

"Public employee compensation is a hot topic. Taxpayers know intuitively that something’s not quite right. Yet it’s so complex, it can’t be spelled out in simple terms. Thom Reilly has managed to explain it, drawing on his varied career experience. He’s used his knowledge of the public and private sectors, and his nonprofit background, to turn out an objective discussion of the public employees, their unions, and the relationships elected officials have with both. Taxpayers, who pick up the tab for all of it, will appreciate this concise look at the politics and archaic policies that govern public employee compensation. The book is a must-read for elected officials, students of government, and anyone who pays taxes." -Carole Vilardo, President Nevada Taxpayers Association

"Reilly offers a thoughtful breakdown of the intensely debated and complex issue of public sector compensation. He offers insightful analysis on policies that could help relieve the stranglehold that these types of financial obligations have placed on the ability of governments across the country to effectively serve the public interest. Reilly is uniquely qualified to offer a thorough perspective on public employee pension funds and compensation practices, the effect that funding these obligations are having on government, and policy changes that could work towards alleviating this burden. He offers practical and common sense solutions that are rightly centered on the public interest. This book is highly recommended to those concerned about the ability of government to deliver core public services." -Sig Rogich President, The Rogich Communications Group Former US Ambassador to Iceland and Assistant to the President for President George H.W Bush

PUBLICATIONS

Reilly, T. (In press). Are social enterprises viable models for funding nonprofits? Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance.

Reilly, T. (2013). Comparing Public-Versus-Private Sector Pay and Benefits: Examining Lifetime Compensation. Public Personnel Management., 42(4), 521-544.

Reilly, T. (2012). Public Pensions and Retiree Health Care in Nevada: An Analysis. The Nevada Review Journal, (4) 2, 3-28.

Reilly, T., Woodruff, S., Smith, L., Clapp, J., and Cade, J. (2010). Unsafe Sex Among HIV- Positive Individuals: Cross-Sectional and Prospective Predictors. Journal of Community Health, 35 (2): 115-122.

Reilly, T. & Thom, M. (2015). Local government sick-leave practices: An exploratory study. Review of Public Personnel Administration.

Reilly, T. (2013). Rethinking The Role of the Profession on Public Sector Compensation. Public Administration Review,(73) 1, 8-9.

Reilly, T., and Reed, M. (2011). Budget Shortfalls, Employee Compensation and Collective Bargaining in Local Governments. State and Local Government Review. 43 (3), 215- 223.

Reilly, T., Schoener, S. & Bolin, A. (2007). Public Sector Compensation in Local Governments: An Analysis. Review of Public Personnel Administration, 27 (1), 39 -58.

Thom, Michael & Reilly, Thom (2015). Compensation Benchmarking Practices in U.S. Local Governments: Results of a National Survey. Public Personnel Management, 44(3), 340-355.

Reilly, T. (2013). Reforming Public Pay and Benefits. State and Local Government Review, 45 (1), 57-64.

Reilly, T., Smith, L., Woodruff, S.I., Clapp, J.D., and Cade, J. (2010) Predictors of Death and Survival Duration among a Sample of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS. Social Work in Health Care, 49 (9), 783- 798.

FOR A COMPLETE LISTING, VIEW FULL CV

'Greater Urgency' For Young People To Vote This Election

Listen on KJZZ

The Bell Tolls: Big-Time Corruption In A Small Town
Bell, Calif., is one of the smallest and poorest cities in Los Angeles County, but until the beginning of the decade, its top city administrator had a pay and benefits package worth $1.5 million a year.
Listen on KNPR

The Impact Of Ballot Measures In Arizona

The Republican Party’s Strategy to Ignore Poverty
Arizona, where I was born, in July became the first state to cut poor families’ access to welfare assistance to a maximum of 12 months over a lifetime. That’s a fifth of the time allowed under federal law, and means that 5,000 more people will lose their benefits by next June.
Read more from NY Times

What Can We Learn From Government Failure In Bell, California?

Listen on KJZZ

Committee meets to discuss shared services proposal
Watch on News 3 Las Vegas

Committee meets to discuss shared services proposal
Watch on News 3 Las Vegas

Arizona First To Limit Needy Family Aid To One Year
Read more from Here & Now

The Federal Government’s Pension Cost Overload
Watch on FOX Business

Interview on Wall Street Journal Radio

Government Agencies Face Staffing Shortages As More Workers Retire
Listen at KJZZ.org

NO MORE GAMBLING FOR YOUR PENSION
Listen on SoundCloud

Thom Reilly and Betsy Fretwell on Face to Face with Jon Ralston
Watch on News 3 Las Vegas

Huge government pension gap sparks backlash
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - Pensions and other retirement benefits have become a multi-trillion-dollar black hole for state and local government budgets, sparking fierce battles between elected officials and voters on one side and public sector unions on the other...
Read more from CNN MONEY

SHOW MORE

My Turn: Lessons from a deeply corrupt city
"Corruption on steroids" is how Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley described the city of Bell, Calif., a tiny enclave of 37,000 people in Los Angeles County... Read more from azcentral.com

A Better Way to Set Public Pay
Too few local governments are taking advantage of a valuable tool: benchmarking compensation among their public- and private-sector peers... Read more from governing.com

First step to fix pension woes: Proper accounting
Officials from Nevada’s Public Employees Retirement System recently announced that the system saw a 12.4 percent increase in value in the fiscal year that ended June 30, beating its 8 percent goal... Read more from Las Vegas Sun

Nevada Taxpayers Association
My years in both state and local government have made me a passionate non-partisan. I stand before you today believing very strongly that the policies and financial issues surrounding public pay and benefits are bipartisan issues and the failure to make needed reforms will have a profound impact on the ability of state and local government to function effectively... Read entire keynote

Government’s Continuing Budget-Buster: Paid Sick Leave
While paid sick leave is critical to economic security and health for employees and their families, its impact is even more far-reaching -- even contagious... Read more from governing.com

Why We Need to Re-Think Public Employees’ Compensation
Traditional public pensions widen the public-private pay gap, and they aren't a good fit for a younger government workforce... Read more from governing.com

Nevada's public employee compensation needs reform now
Nevada's pension system is one of the most generous public employee retirement plans in the nation... Read more from LVRJ

The Carter Presidential Library and Museum presentation
June 21, 2012 - A broken system... Read entire presentation

Viewpoints: How to solve Arizona's pension crisis
Pension reform is complicated, particularly with Arizona's constraints. Here's how we can get around them... Read more from azcentral.com

TANF cuts: Is Arizona shortsighted in its dwindling support for poor families?
Arizona’s recently adopted budget for fiscal year 2015-16 includes dramatic reductions in assistance to low-income families with children. Read more from The Morrison Institute

Giving shelter: Promising news on homeless front
Let’s talk about homelessness. But wait — this time, remarkably enough, the news is promising... Read more from U-T San Diego

More transparency needed for city’s pension reform
It is of little surprise that the Comprehensive Pension Reform (CPR) initiative (which replaces guaranteed pensions for most city workers with a 401(k)-style plan, freezes base pay for city workers and removes special pay from counting toward pension calculations) is appearing on the June ballot in San Diego and garnering a good deal of citizen support... Read more from U-T San Diego

EVENTS

The following events are book discussions on
The Failure of Governance in Bell, California: Big-time Corruption in a Small Town

Tuesday, June 7, 2016 | Memphis

Jason's Deli
3473 Poplar Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee, 38111
5:30-7:30 pm (6-7pm Book Discussion)


Wednesday June 8, 2016 | Memphis

Embassy Suites
1022 S. Shady Grove Rd
Memphis, Tennessee 38120
5:30-7:30 (6-7pm Book Discussion)


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Changing Hands Bookstore
300 W Camelback Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85013
7pm

For more info visit the event site.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Historic 5th Street School
401 S 4th Street
Las Vegas, Nevada 89101
6pm

more info.

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