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Bell councilman paid high salary even after he quit, witness says

Lourdes garcia
A ranking Bell administrator testified Thursday that she was ordered to draw up a contract for a departing council member that paid him nearly $100,000 a year, even though the job he was taking could have been handled by a volunteer.

Lourdes Garcia, who made $422,000 a year as the city’s director of administrative services, said former Councilman Victor Bello continued to be paid the same wages he made as a councilman after he quit the council and went to work for the city’s food bank.

Garcia, who has been granted immunity for her testimony, is the second prosecution witness in a municipal corruption case in which six former council members are accused of inflating their salaries by getting paid for serving on boards and commissions that seldom met, and did little or no work.

Crisis in Bell: High salaries stir outrage

Prosecutors said some of the boards were no more than a “sham.”

Former council members Luis Artiga, Victor Bell, George Cole, Oscar Hernandez, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal could all face prison terms if convicted. Former City Administrator Robert Rizzo and his assistant, Angela Spaccia, are also charged but will be tried later this year.

At a preliminary hearing in 2011, Garcia admitted covering up Rizzo's nearly $800,000 salary and conceded that she had typed up a document vastly misstating how much the then-administrator made.

Though chief executive of one of Los Angeles County’s poorest cities, Rizzo was the highest paid city official at the time in California.

Under questioning Thursday, Garcia testified that Rizzo told her in 2008 to prepare a document understating his salary and the pay of council members.

"What's not true on the document?" Deputy Dist. Atty. Edward Miller asked.

"The salary of the council," Garcia said. "It doesn't represent the full amount they were getting at the time."

"What about the city administrator officer?"

"No, it's not the right amount, " Garcia said. “It’s only partial.”

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-- Ruben Vives

 Photo: Lourdes Garcia at preliminary hearing in 2011. Credit: Irfan Khan/LA Times.

 

 
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