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Judge leaning toward dismissing attorney general's case against Bell officials

Former Bell City Council members cannot be sued for passing ordinances that awarded them hefty salaries, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ralph W. Dau tentatively ruled Thursday.

Dau will issue a formal, written ruling, perhaps as early as Thursday afternoon.

The tentative ruling would effectively cripple the sweeping civil lawsuit filed by then-Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown against former City Administrator Robert Rizzo and seven other current and former city officials who have been criminally charged with misappropriation of public funds.

Brown, who is now governor, vowed to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars allegedly pilfered from city coffers in a "civil conspiracy" to defraud the public.

But some attorneys and critics said that Brown, who was running for governor at the time of the filing, may have overstepped his authority and that the attorney general's office may not have standing to sue. If Dau upholds his tentative ruling, the state's only remedy would be the Court of Appeals.

Dau said in court that he was concerned about the attorney general’s accusations that defendants' compensation exceeded what was "reasonable and commensurate with defendants' respective duties and responsibilities."

"I can't say, 'You've set unreasonable compensation, I will decide what's reasonable.' That's the city council's job," Dau said.

He said setting municipal salaries is a legislative matter, not a judicial issue. “I don’t want to overstep my authority,” the judge said.

Ronald Kaye, an attorney for former Bell Councilman George Cole, said he was encouraged and is confident Dau will uphold his ruling. He said it would send a message to prosecutors in the criminal proceedings: "We only hope that the district attorney's office can gain some insight from this and stop this witch hunt."

The prospect of Dau’s ruling, coupled with Judge Henry J. Hall's decision Wednesday to throw out one count of misappropriating public funds against Rizzo, is a sign of the lack of evidence against the former city administrator, said James Spertus, Rizzo's attorney.

"To the extent that the public thinks Mr. Rizzo is responsible for massive losses to the city -- they're wrong," Spertus said. "The true tragedy is that the city is incurring massive legal fees for its private attorneys to participate in the attorney general and district attorney's cases."

RELATED:

Bell seeks emergency legislation to certify election results

Rizzo's horse-racing partner got millions in city business, D.A. says

Rizzo ordered to stand trial for conflict of interest, one charge dismissed

-- Corina Knoll

 
Comments () | Archives (22)

Council members ".....cant' be sued for raising their own pay..."?! How many of us have raised our own pay? For whom do these guys work?! And while I'm at it, how is it that our legislators can vote themselves cushy benefits (healthcare for example) of which the rest of us can only dream????? // Jean Clelland-Morin

Dau said in court that he was concerned about the attorney general’s accusations that defendants' compensation exceeded what was "reasonable and commensurate with defendants' respective duties and responsibilities."...........hmmm really a twist

travesty can this judge be some how connected to the bell scandal this is an out rage!!!

There is crime. There are criminals...and then there's the moral equivalent. – TK

Ha ha ha ha....I was the first person to say that things are never over until they're over. I'm going to laugh hard when the Rizzo crew walks.

Whats Steve Lopez have to say about this?

News Alert To Spertus: I'm sure the residents of Bell will happily pay the "massive legal fees for its private attorneys" and watch Rizzo rot in prison bankrupt, than pay zero cents to watch him walk away.

Who paid off Judge Dau?

Could have seen this coming. No one elected official can rob a city. It takes a group effort 3 votes of 5 elected councilpersons and it takes councilmembers that are blind or have no moral compass or ethics. Should procecute federally under the RICO act. Even council members that were not indited are guilty due to not fully understanding what they voted on. Stupidity, ignorance or being deaf dumb or blind is not an excuse.

Dau may not be so concerned about Rizzo and the City of Bell. The corruption in the Los Angeles City Council is a growing concern, and it looks as if Dau is looking to lay a foundation to protect Garcetti, Labonge, Wesson, most of the staff of the CRA, the department of housing, etc.

While the media routinely get legal issues screwed up, there is no mention of the fraud inherent in the behavior among the Bell officials. There is no mention of the illegal loans and the other subterfuges to conceal their behavior.

In order to protect LA City Council, Dau seems to be saying that City Councils are a world unto themselves and the courts have no role in redressing any wrongdoing. B y dismissing the case as a matter of law, Dau makes certain that no juror ever gets to decide whether criminal fraud is OK when done by a city official.

I love this one! Even corporations have to be beholden to their shareholders (well, alledgedly, anyway). So this means that city councils can run a city JUST like the mob would (or does). Give yourself hefty salaries forever, plus bonuses and other perks, of course. And too bad if city residents don't know about it; and EVEN IF THEY had addressed the city council on their proposals re: their future salaries the city council could Still approve them! Hey - that's it - I'm runnin' for alderman - where's the application form????!

In LA, money talks and B.S walks. As long as your a celebrity or got your hand in the government cookie jar with the rest of the phony politicians, you will always stay on top!

i'm rooting for that fat dude rizzo. at least he was honest about skimming off the taxpayer. there are millions of public employees with the same attitude, even if they can't dream so high. the money is theirs, since they are part of the government.

Are you telling me all the screaming from the Attorney General (now Governor) was based on politics and looking good instead of law? Tell me it's not so. Not dear Jerry? He would never abuse his office for political gain.

Oh, the suit that now-Gov. Brown filed to such great pre-election fanfare? Will he have to pay sanctions or be liable for malicious prosecution?

This judge's ruling is an outrage and this man should be removed from
the position he holds and an investigation should be put in place to
determine if he is of sound mind. This judge needs to be brought up on
federal racketeering charges for aiding & abetting the criminals he is
trying to keep from true justice.

According to this article who is left to protect the tax payer's money? Where is the defense? The full public's eye is now being unveiled. Someone needs to pay back all the tax payer's money. How many more taxpayer's are being ripped off?

How wonderful it is to be completely powerless, especially now it is underlined by a judge.

Absolutely no redress for this excessive greed!

Welcome to Bahrain.

What a vote of judicial confidence when the Judge actually aides and abets the "alleged" criminals! If the fact that millions are missing and unaccounted for during an administrative spree of looting and theft by Bell officials, which they are and they did, isn't proof, then what is? How pathetic is this Judge?

And people wonder why no one trust the US DOJ anymore...

Who paid off Judge Dau?

Michael D. Antonovich and Ronald P. George

Hey, LA Times, how about doing some reporting on the epic corruption in our superior courts? The ones that allow the county to bribe judges, so they rule in the county's favor. Guess what? Those judgements for the past 20 years are void, how about a story on that? All cases involving the county, criminal, traffic, lawsuits, child custody, etc. all null and void because the judges were paid off. See Full Disclosure.org for details on how to disqualify a judge and get your money back from a racketeering court system. Why don't we hear this kinda important stuff on the main stream media? Maybe you might want to look into this slightly major news event.


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