Prosecutors detail case against Rizzo in new court documents
Los Angeles County prosecutors, in records obtained Wednesday by The Times, lay out in the most detail yet the lengths to which they allege former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo went to hide extravagant salaries for himself and other city officials.
The court documents accuse Rizzo of directing an employee to draft false contracts and other records in September 2008 that concealed how much he and council members made. Then a few months ago, under growing scrutiny of his salary, the city administrator asked a subordinate to obtain Mayor Oscar Hernandez’s signature on some of those 2008 contracts, the court filing says.
While questions about Hernandez’s role in the contracts were raised by The Times last week, the court records allege that Rizzo turned to Hernandez even after the subordinate pointed out that another council member had been the mayor in 2008.
“Rizzo directed the subordinate to obtain Oscar Hernandez’s signature anyway because Hernandez would be willing to sign,” the documents say. “The subordinate did so.”
The allegations were made in court documents asking a judge to prevent Rizzo and seven other current and former city leaders charged this week from using money improperly taken from Bell to bail out of jail.
Rizzo’s attorney, James W. Spertus, did not return a call seeking comment on the allegations, but he has repeatedly said his client is innocent.
The prosecution documents allege that Rizzo used the false 2008 contracts in response to questions about his salary. He allegedly told one citizen who asked whether he was really making $400,000, “If I can make that kind of money, I wouldn’t be working here.”
Prosecutors accused Rizzo of continuing to use the false contracts in recent months amid growing scrutiny of his salary by the district attorney’s office and others. Sometime after June, one of the false 2008 contracts was given to the city attorney to respond to requests for records of Rizzo’s pay.
The contract listed Rizzo’s salary as $221,460. In reality, he was on course to make more than $1.5 million in salary and benefits this year. As recently as last week, Rizzo pointed to the contracts in response to questions from the state attorney general’s office and falsely claimed they were genuine and were approved by the City Council, the court documents allege.
“By continuing to maintain the fiction that the documents purporting to be September 2008 contracts are genuine, Mr. Rizzo continues to retain public funds feloniously obtained,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Max Huntsman wrote in one of the court documents.
-- Jack Leonard
Photos: Arrests in Bell