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Ex-Bell city manager a no-show at DUI hearing

August 5, 2010 | 10:37 am

Rizzo An attorney for Bell's disgraced former city manager, Robert Rizzo, made an appearance Thursday in an Orange County courthouse, noting that Rizzo has "taken responsibility" for his drunk-driving case.

Rizzo did not attend the brief pretrial conference, the latest court date in connection with his March 6 drunk-driving arrest in Huntington Beach. Rizzo, 56, was arrested with a blood-alcohol level of 0.28, more than three times the legal limit, after a resident called police and reported that a man crashed into a mailbox and then drove into an alley.

"He's taken steps to better himself, and he's moved on," his attorney, Katherine McBroom, said as reporters and photographers trailed her out of the Westminster courthouse. "Mr. Rizzo has taken responsibility for what he's done on the DUI case."

Rizzo has pleaded not guilty to the charge and is attending weekly two-hour alcohol-counseling sessions, according to his court file.

The hearing Thursday lasted less than a minute as Judge Michael J. Cassidy set Aug. 26 as the next court date in the case. Brock Zimmon, an Orange County deputy district attorney who is part of a special prosecution unit, was also present in court.

A handful of Bell community members said they were disappointed Rizzo didn't show and that the process was postponed.

"You want to see his face," said Bell community activist and resident Nestor Valencia, 45. "Part of me is disappointed. The other part says I expected this."

Julie Hermes, 52, a real estate broker who grew up in Bell and now lives in Newport Coast, said she came to support her former city: "I just wanted to see justice being served, at least on a very small scale."

Rizzo has been widely criticized for his high salary as Bell's top administrator. He was earning nearly $800,000 a year but resigned the position last month after The Times published his salary as well as the high pay of Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, at $376,288 a year, and Police Chief Randy Adams, who made $457,000 a year.

-- Corina Knoll

Photo: Robert Rizzo. Credit: Huntington Beach Police Department