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Judge in Bell corruption case expected to rule today on whether 6 accused will stand trial

February 16, 2011 | 12:05 pm

Judge The judge in the Bell corruption case is expected to rule Wednesday whether six current or former council members will be ordered to stand trial on charges of misappropriating more than $1 million from the small city's treasury.

The city leaders are accused of drawing hefty stipends for serving on boards and commissions that rarely met -– or when they did, for only a few minutes. Council members made close to $100,000 a year for their part-time jobs.

A preliminary hearing for the city’s former administrators, Robert Rizzo and Angela Spaccia, is set to open next week. Both are accused of looting money from the city.

In court documents filed this week, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office described Rizzo as a “godfather” who loaned out the city’s money at will and drew up his own illegal compensation packages. The memo noted that copies of the contacts were found on Spaccia’s work computer.

The ongoing hearing for the current and former council members has leaned on testimony from two employees who were granted partial immunity and the lone council member not charged in the corruption case.

Both employees testified that under orders from Rizzo, they prepared or distributed a document that falsified the salaries paid to council members and Rizzo.

On Wednesday, lawyers for former councilmen George Cole and Luis Artiga submitted a motion asking that criminal charges be dropped against their clients, arguing there’s no evidence they intentionally misappropriated funds. L.A. Superior Court Judge Henry J. Hall has not ruled on the motion.

The criminal case has had a paralyzing effect on the Bell City Council, which has struggled to assemble quorums as members have skipped meetings or, in one case, stormed out of a meeting. The city’s interim  administrator has urged the council to meet to deal with needed budget cuts in order to avoid insolvency.


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-- Corina Knoll and Steve Marble

Photo: L.A. Superior Court Judge Henry J. Hall. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times