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Riverside law firm wins L.A. contract despite past link to Bell

Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo and former Asssistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia in court in January.

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday awarded a contract worth up to $450,000 to a Riverside-based law firm despite complaints from one member about its work in the scandal-plagued city of Bell.

Councilman Tony Cardenas said Best, Best & Krieger had not adequately explained whether it bore responsibility for any of the problems that arose in Bell between 2006 and 2010 -– the period when that city was a client of the firm. Eight current and former Bell city leaders were arrested in 2010 on corruption charges, with prosecutors saying they had  misappropriated more than $5.5 million and treated the city's coffers as their personal piggy bank.

Brant Dveirin, a partner with Best, Best & Krieger, told council members that his firm acted “in a very responsible way” by stepping down as Bell’s lawyer in the wake of the scandal. He said the lawyer who was assigned to Bell left the firm. “I don’t believe that my firm did anything wrong with respect to the city of Bell,” he said.

Cardenas, who represents part of the San Fernando Valley and is running for Congress, said he was not satisfied with Dveirin’s explanation. “I have yet to hear at any point in time that … your firm ever objected to their client continuing to go in such a massively, incredibly … wrong direction,” he told the lawyer.

“I really want to know what changes you’ve made with your firm to make sure that anything like that never happens,” he added.

The council voted 11 to 2 to approve the contract, with Cardenas and Councilman Dennis Zine opposed.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the city’s housing department and the city’s top budget and policy analysts recommended Best, Best & Krieger to help the city focus on securing housing assets from the Community Redevelopment Agency, which is being shut down as part of the state budget crisis.


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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo and former Asssistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia in court in January. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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