BELL, Calif.–Already struggling to stay out of bankruptcy, Bell has been told by the state Department of Parks and Recreation that it owes the agency nearly $500,000 because of irregularities in its spending of grant money, mostly under former City Administrator Robert Rizzo, it was reported today.

In a memorandum last week to the City Council, newly appointed interim Chief Administrative Officer Ken Hampian, called the problem “a sizable one” for the city, which faces a deficit of more than $4 million, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Parks and Recreation told Bell officials in a June 30 letter that the city had 30 days to repay $481,176. Sedrick Mitchell, a spokesman for the department, told The Times that his agency is arranging a meeting with Bell to discuss the issue.

Among the problems a parks auditor discovered were that the City Council had not approved contracts, that contracts were not awarded through competitive bidding as the city charter requires, and that there were conflicts of interest.

The grants, which totaled $4.781 million, were awarded in 2003 and 2004, Barbara Baker, manager of the Parks Office of Grants and Local Services, told The Times.