Ethical Heroes Award

2012 marked the first year of the Cal-ICMA Ethical Heroes Award / Local Government Management Hall of Fame Recognition.

Ethical Hero award for Ken Hampian's service as interim CAO in Bell.

Early in 2013, the Cal-ICMA board approved the guidelines and criteria for the Cal-ICMA Local Government Management Hall of Fame Recognition program. Nominations for 2014 were due September 30, 2013. Honorees will be selected by December 1, and awards will be presented at the February 2014 Cal-ICMA meeting at the League of California Cities' City Managers' Department conference.

At the February 2012 City Manager’s Department Meeting meeting in Palm Desert, the Cal-ICMA Board gathered to recognize the actions of a small group of individuals responsible for renewing life and energy to the city of Bell. To commemorate this event, Cal-ICMA designed a ringing bell statuette symbolizing the commitment to strong leadership. The new annual honor is a part of a recognition series for the Cal-ICMA Ethics Hall of Fame.

First Ethical Heroes Awards Recap:  February 2012

The inaugural Cal-ICMA Ethical Heroes award was given to seven members of the profession whose extraordinary efforts have contributed to the resurgence of a city submerged in turmoil. While several organizations, cities, and individuals have aided the turnaround, the seven awardees are examples of members of our profession dedicated to maintaining ethical standards in the face of uncertainty.As news broke of the fraudulent mismanagement of Bell, city managers could only look on as a purported member of the profession became infamous for activities that tarnished the entire profession. After the dust had settled in Bell, only one department head remained. Adding to the uncertainty, there were no responses to the original request for applications for a new chief administrative officer (CAO). As soon as leadership from ICMA/Cal-ICMA, CCMF, and the League of California Cities heard this news, they started to make some phone calls.Within hours of agreeing to help, former San Luis Obispo city manager Ken Hampian was headed to Bell to serve as the interim CAO. Hampian’s knowledge and professionalism guided the Bell City Council in the transformative weeks. Insisting to serve without compensation, Hampian’s short 30-day tenure inspired confidence from the community and helped residents regain trust in public sector leadership. His devotion to assisting the city continues with his volunteer efforts in Bell.Current Santa Monica deputy police chief Al Venegas used his vacation time to provide leadership serving as Hampian’s chief of staff. While in Bell, Venegas assisted Hampian in sorting through several unresolved matters and solving many of the problems presented to the new staff. The two weeks of “vacation” Venegas spent in Bell are a model of the personal sacrifices made to demonstrate the positive outcomes of effective leadership.



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Santa Monica Deputy Chief of Police Al Venegas accepts his award from Cal-ICMA president Scott Mitnick.

Bill Statler, a former finance director in San Luis Obispo, sorted through the major financial problems to build a transparent foundation for future proceedings, including the involvement of the community in the process. Though problems still persist from the previous administration’s lack of budget oversight and bond debt, Statler continues to provide Bell with countless hours of volunteer service.

ICMA Senior Advisor Pam Easter volunteered her time to join Hampian in rebuilding the city in those first critical weeks. Despite facing a long commute into Bell, Easter stayed on after Hampian’s service and she continues to assist and advise the city’s current employees on the best practices for delivering public services. Easter serves as a role model for the Bell employees who hope to make a difference in the community.

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Applause all around as ICMA Senior Advisor Pam Easter receives her award.          










Debra Kurita had recently retired from her position as the assistant city manager in San Bernardino. However, immediately after being asked to set aside the comforts of retirement, Kurita made her way to Bell. She is currently providing the city with valuable leadership as the interim director of community services. As the first interim head, Kurita faces several challenges but the importance of the work in Bell keeps her motivated.

Pulling together resources from the three professional associations, former Fairfield city manager Kevin O’Rourke led the efforts to find a long-term interim CAO. O’Rourke’s leadership as a long tenured and respected professional manager in California was integral to finding a replacement for Hampian. Through the efforts O’Rourke and his committee, several well-qualified applicants and other professionals reached out to assist the community.

Former San Mateo city manager Arne Croce took over where Hampian left off after the initial 30-day period. After returning from promoting local governance in Kosovo, Croce put his personal life on hold to move to Bell to sort out the damage done to the city and the employees. As interim CAO, Croce has been challenged to rebuild the city’s government in the aftermath of the scandal. With staff support graciously provided by many California managers, including San Mateo’s Susan Loftus, Santa Monica’s Rod Gould, and Beverly Hills’ Jeff Kolin, Croce has been able to jumpstart the rebuilding process. He has successfully moved the organization forward with the support of the surrounding community.

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City of Bell CAO, Arne Croce, reflects on his efforts to get the city back on track.

Now, with the presence of professional leadership, the city of Bell can continue to make strides to rebuild the community’s trust in their local government and the profession. The Cal-ICMA Ethics Committee will continue to honor Ethical Heroes in future years.  These first seven individuals set the highest standard, displaying the value of professional management with their inspiring impact on the city of Bell.