Bell's Velez takes stand in colleagues' preliminary hearing on corruption charges
Bell City Councilman Lorenzo Velez testified Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court that he had no knowledge of his colleagues' near-$100,000 salaries, nor of the city commissions they had been paid to sit on.
Velez, the lone council member not facing public corruption charges, was the first witness called in a preliminary hearing that involves six current and former City Council members.
In his opening statement, prosecutor Edward Miller said Mayor Oscar Hernandez and current and former council members Luis Artiga, George Cole, Teresa Jacobo, Victor Bello and George Mirabal used the commissions to collect more than $1.2 million.
"Bell's Solid Waste Authority was a solid waste of money," Miller said.
One by one, Miller asked Velez if he’d heard of Bell’s redevelopment agency, community housing authority or public financing authority before The Times reported city officials’ exorbitant salaries. Velez replied no each time.
Velez, appointed to the City Council in October 2009, said he was paid $310.67 every two weeks and has since given up his salary. “I wanted to encourage my colleagues to resign their salaries,” he said.
Afterward, Velez told The Times it was awkward to be deposed in front of his colleagues.
"It's kind of sad to see them there," he said. "I'm not their judge. I hold no ill feelings toward anyone."
-- Corina Knoll