Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Bell 8: DA offers limited immunity to city clerk in public corruption case [Updated]

February 9, 2011 | 12:33 pm

Prosecutors on Wednesday offered Bell's city clerk "use immunity" as she prepared to testify in ongoing corruption hearings.

The offer to City Clerk Rebecca Valdez would mean her testimony cannot be used against her by the Los Angeles County district attorney. The deal would not necessarily shield her if another agency filed charges.

Valdez has not been charged in the corruption sweep that resulted in the arrest of eight current and former Bell city officials, and prosecutors said the immunity offer is not an indication that she would have been charged.

But prosecutors said they believed she might invoke her 5th Amendment right not to testify if not offered limited immunity.

Prosecutors declined to say whether other potential witnesses in the corruption case have been offered immunity deals.

[Updated 12:49 p.m.: Bell resident Donna Gannon, who attended Wednesday’s hearing, said she wasn’t troubled by the immunity offer to the city clerk.

"I don't hate this one,” she said. “She was a young girl when she came in, she didn't know what she was doing. She did her job.

“But if she buries them all,” Gannon added, “I'd be happy."]

In the first of three preliminary hearings, six current and former council members are facing charges that they were paid for meetings that did not occur or lasted only a few minutes. The hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence to move forward with a criminal trial.

Councilman Lorenzo Velez, the only council member not arrested, has been the only witness to testify so far. Velez said he was not aware that the other council members were being paid nearly $100,000 for sitting on city commissions that seldom or never met. Meanwhile, Velez took a modest salary of about $8,000 a year.

The judge will take up charges against former city administrator Robert Rizzo -- whose nearly $800,000 salary sparked outrage and led to scrutiny of the city's practices -- and his assistant Angela Spaccia at a subsequent hearing.


Bell defense attorneys say witness not being honest

Velez takes stand in colleagues' preliminary hearing 

Bell officials reject deals from D.A.; critics say two years isn’t enough

-- Jeff Gottlieb