Bell 8: Administrator who was paid more than $420,000 is offered immunity in corruption case
A ranking Bell administrator who earned more than $400,000 for watching over the city’s finances has been offered limited immunity in exchange for her testimony in a corruption case accusing city leaders of looting the city's treasury, defense lawyers said.
Lourdes Garcia, Bell’s director of administrative services, took the stand Monday afternoon, the third witness in a corruption case that accuses six current or former City Council members of misappropriation of public funds. Prosecutors are in the midst of a preliminary hearing to determine if there’s enough evidence to order the six to stand trial.
The part-time council members are accused of earning nearly $100,000 a year by drawing pay for serving on boards and committees that rarely met or met for only a few minutes at a time.
In addition, former City Administrator Robert Rizzo and his former assistant, Angela Spaccia, are accused of misappropriating public money.
Garcia has made news in the Bell salary scandal herself when it was disclosed that she earned more than $420,000 a year in total compensation. Garcia agreed to a 61% pay cut after the high salaries in the small, working-class city were disclosed by The Times.
Last week, prosecutors offered City Clerk Rebecca Valdez limited immunity in exchange for her testimony. Prosecutors said it was likely that Valdez would have invoked the 5th Amendment had she not been offered an immunity deal.
Garcia took the 5th last month when deposed by Rizzo's attorney as part of the state attorney general's lawsuit against current and former city leaders.
Community residents who have followed the Bell scandal said they were disappointed that a ranking administrator in the city would be offered any deal.
Hassan Mourad, 33, said he was outraged because Garcia appeared to have done little, if anything, to expose the corruption at City Hall.
“When you’re getting paid more than $400,000 a year, you’re not really complaining too much,” Mourad said. “Rizzo was giving a lot of people money to shut up.”
-- Corina Knoll and Steve Marble
Photo: Lourdes Garcia at a Bell City Council meeting Aug. 16, 2010. Credit: Christina House / For The Times