When 76-year-old Bruce Malkenhorst was the city administrator of Vernon, a city in LA County, he was California’s highest paid government official. When he retired in 2005, he became the state’s highest paid public pensioner.
During his tenure of public service, he misused public funds to pay for golf, massages, meals, credit card debt, and political donations. On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to these crimes. He will now pay $35,000 in penalties and $65,000 in restitutions to the city of Vernon.
However, he still gets to keep his exorbitant pension of $500,000 per year.
The city of Vernon may be the last fully-functioning political machine in America. Created in 1905, it’s dominated by the family of the founder (the Malburgs) and the family of an early finance official hired in 1975 (the Malkenhorsts).
In day time, over 40,000 people work in Vernon’s warehouses and factories. After work, most of them leave. According to the 2010 Census, the city only has 112 actual residents, mostly consisting of the two families and other employees of the city.
Vernon has no parks, schools, libraries, or grocery stores. It has a handful of restaurants. It also has no real democratic process, according to critics like Gloria Molina, a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
In 1980, a former police officer tried to run for public office against the two families but was soon evicted from his city-owned housing, according to Forbes. In 2006, several outsiders tried to move into the city and run for office.
First, they were denied a housing permit. After they were finally granted residence and declared eligible to run for office, they lost in a landslide.