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Felony charges dismissed against ex-Bell mayor, councilman

February 28, 2012 | 11:51 am

Bell 8

This post has been amended. See details below.

A Los Angeles judge tossed out felony charges Tuesday against both the former mayor of Bell and one of his council colleagues, ruling that neither of the elected leaders knew they were breaking the law by accepting cash loans from then-City Administrator Robert Rizzo.

Both Oscar Hernandez and Luis Artiga, however, still face felony charges for allegedly collecting excessive pay for sitting on city boards and commissions that rarely, if ever, met.

Hernandez and Artiga are among six former council members in Bell who were charged  in a massive public corruption case that left the city near bankruptcy. One charge was dropped against Hernandez. Two charges were dismissed against Artiga, who had accepted two cash loans.

FULL COVERAGE: High salaries stir outrage in Bell

The pay the council members received for serving on boards such as the Surplus Property Authority and the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority pushed their salaries to nearly six figures, even though they held part-time positions.

By 2010, council members were receiving $1,453 a month for serving on each of four boards.

Rizzo and his chief assistant, Angela Spaccia, are charged with drawing huge salaries that the council never approved, giving themselves extra benefits and lending money to city employees and business owners.

[For the record, 12:20 p.m. Feb. 28: An earlier version of this post, including the headline, incorrectly stated that a single count was dismissed against a former Bell mayor and councilman. Two charges were dropped against former Councilman Luis Artiga because he had accepted two cash loans.]


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Photo:  Robert Rizzo, left, Angela Spaccia, former Bell City Council member Victor Bello and former Mayor Oscar Hernandez in court in 2010. Creidt: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times