This article seeks to explain recent patterns of corruption in the city of Bell, California. After reviewing the literature on municipal corruption and reform and political participation in immigrant communities, the article examines the Bell case study. It argues that the city’s primary democratic institutions, voter participation, watchdog media, and community organization engagement collapsed prior to the scandal. In addition, elements of the council-manager form of government contributed to community disengagement from city politics. In this “failed state,” local officials exploited governmental power for personal gain. Implications for political reform and local state-building in high immigration cities are discussed.