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Bell corruption hearings set to begin Monday

Preliminary hearings for eight current and former Bell city officials charged with corruption, including misappropriating more than $5.5 million, are expected to begin Monday.

There are to be three separate hearings, one after the other, said Jennifer Lentz Snyder, head deputy of the district attorney's public integrity division.

The charges were filed after a series of articles by The Times detailing the high salaries of Bell city officials and the activities of Robert Rizzo, the city's longtime chief administrative officer.

In the first case, prosecutors are scheduled to present evidence against current council members Oscar Hernandez, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal and former council members Luis Artiga, George Cole and Victor Bello. They are charged with being paid for work on four city commissions that seldom or never met, or met only for a few minutes.

When they were arrested in September, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said they had collected more than $1.2 million in total pay since 2006 for presiding over these meetings, which by last year had boosted council salaries to nearly $100,000.

The defendants in the second preliminary hearing are to be Hernandez, Rizzo and former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia. Rizzo and Spaccia are charged with misappropriation of public funds for writing their own employment contracts, which came with huge salaries. The contracts were not approved by the council. Rizzo, who faces more than 50 counts, is also charged with giving nearly $1.9 million in unauthorized city loans to himself, about 50 Bell employees, the owner of a Chevrolet dealership and a foundation run by Cole, then a councilman.

An audit by the state controller's office found the city repaid $96,000 in loans Rizzo made to himself from his retirement accounts.

Artiga and Hernandez are charged because they each received $20,000 loans.

Rizzo is also charged with falsifying public records to keep his salary secret. He was set to receive about $1.5 million in compensation last year.

In the final hearing, Rizzo is charged with conflict of interest for his dealings with Dennis Tarango, who served as the city's privately contracted planning director until recently. The state controller's office found the city had paid Tarango's engineering firms $10.4 million since 1995. Rizzo and Tarango owned racehorses together.

Snyder said Rizzo was charged because he could not be involved in a decision in which he had a financial stake.

The hearings are expect to last three weeks to a month.

RELATED:

Rizzo's horse had come in

Is a city manager worth $800,000?

Bell was "corruption on steroids," DA says

-- Jeff Gottlieb

Photo: Former Bell Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo is arrested at his home in Huntington Beach on Sept. 21, 2010. Credit: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (16)

Next stop...Hercules, CA

Will the courageous warrior Steve Lopez, of course at huge personal risk, go to the hearing and ask Rizzo dumb questions, then mock his physical appearance in a later Times article?

Its a shame that a handful of corrupt criminals can so easily turn a city in a laughing stock. It is the responsibility of the citizens of the City of Bell to demand justice and the highest level of punishment for these anti-citizens. Every penny should be reimbursed in any way possible even if it means going after the families of these criminals. It is beyond shameful!

What could possibly be the problem with these politicians. Are we expected to believe that other politicians are any different at all. From what I can see the city of Bell is demographically consistent with Maywood. Everyone knows that it is best to be employed by the government whether it is federal, staate, county or city. Guaranteed pensions which the private sector shed more than 20 years ago and job security where it really doesn't matter if you even show up for work. Why are the wheels of government so slow? What difference could it possibly make if you do anything or nothing at all. You still get paid...

Yeah baby! Some heads are gonna roll !!!

The LA city council is an over paid pack of phonies starting with Bernard Parks raking in over $4ook per year, steve lopez you listening?

Hopefully what they did is a violation of some statute and they actually can be found guilty. It would be pretty bad if they get out of it because what they did isn't technically illegal.

Crime follows the poor and uneducated because they have no clue what is being said or done. Crime follows the middle class because they are too busy making a living. Crime follows the rich because they just don't care. Crime doesn't follow the elite because they do the crime before someone does it to them.
No more career politicians. No more high payroll, benefits and perks. 30,000 a year is enough for an honor and anyone caught putting the budget in a deficit gets to pay the difference out of their own pockets!

I'm not a Catholic, but it strikes me that if anyone needs the perfect poster boy to represent most of the Seven Crummy Sins -- here's your man: see photo. Avarice and Greed, Sloth, Gluttony, and Pride -- pride in the sense that he was convinced he was above it all and incapable of getting caught. -- Don't know about Lust, because that's a visual I don't want in my head. As for the fellow below complaining that Steve Lopez made fun of Rizzo's appearance? Boo Hoo, Boo Hoo, Boo Hoo . . . The Bell criminals should thank their lucky stars they don't live in the age and place when such types had their heads stuck on poles along The London Bridge.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that such embezzlement is limited to the city of Bell! It's not. It's happening all over California, just usually on a slightly lesser scale and with more CYA. There's a reason why CA has some of the highest taxes, some of the highest paid state and local employees, some of the most incompetent government services, and why it and its cities should declaring bankruptcy. Income redistribution is happening in CA. But not from the rich to the poor as liberals prefer, but from the poor, the middle class, and the rich -- and going to government employees and their cronies.

Given all these characters wish to participate in the state's RICH PENSION system they should all undergo scrutiny of the State and be subject to lose that Pension.

Second, these people should not be receiving a Pension. They are "elected officials" or appointed and are simply not worthy of such riches as public servants.

Wise up and pull the pension system in line, along with their absurd salaries.

I don't know all the particulars of this case and I'm sure that the all will be judged fairly by a jury of their peers. What happened in Bell is what is happening all over the country. Politicians are collecting money that they don't deserve while their cities, counties, states and the country itself have gone or are going bankrupt. Serving as a ploitician should not have the rewards (Pension, benefits, etc...) that politicians get now. There isn't one politician in office today who sacrifices anything in their daily life. They live posh lifestyles while many of their constiuents struggle to make ends meet. Service should be just that, SERVICE. It is this culture of elitism that has brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy. I'm by no means advocating that politician should serve for free but there is no reason why a millionaire politician should have a $150000 per year or more pension for serving. There is no reason why a politician should be paid $100000 per year to serve especially when their city, state, etc... is showing a budget deficit. We can blame any one individual but the fact is that there isn't one politician today who is working for free or for very low pay. The reason most people don't trust politicians is because they know that politicians have no ethics. Politics makes it easy to become corrupt.

a friend of mine works for bell and officers get paid between 80-130,000 after bonuses and overttime. my friend believes that most officers make this much and we keep having arguments that they are getting over paid. i know where im from, police officers usually make $50K or less!

Maybe Rizzo will do himself and everyone else a favor and drop dead between now and the Trial.He is absolutely Pathetic as a Human.I actually feel sorry for the Man Hog, and can almost understand him. His Greed was spurred by his desire for acceptance. He is completely unacceptable to himself and he is repulsive to others so he feels the need for greed so he can buy acceptance.Can you imagine being a call girl or escort and showing up on his doorstep. YUCK, Double YUCK, If I were the Poor Girl, I`d Flee.

Whats scary is that Low Level Politicians like these found it so easy to set themselves up for life. Think about what the Real Sharp Guys in Washington DC are doing to us.

Hey L.A. City Council and other etc...! are you watching all this ! and of course, AEG /Farmer Insurance wants to build a Pro-Football Stadium w/claim's that it no $$$cost to us Tax Payer's...remember we the Tax Payer Citizen are watching you !!!!


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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