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Bell case: Council was paid for boards that never met, city clerk says

Rebecca Valdez testifies at a 2011 preliminary hearing. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Bell's city clerk testified Friday that she was present at council meetings where no business was conducted for some of the boards and commissions the council members were paid to work on.

Rebecca Valdez's testimony is considered crucial to the prosecution as it attempts to establish that six former council members padded their huge paychecks by drawing stipends for serving on boards that seldom met and often did little work.

Valdez, who has been granted immunity, is the first witness in the Bell corruption trial.

FULL COVERAGE: Crisis in Bell

Defense attorneys said they plan to prove that city paperwork simply doesn’t reflect the work their clients did.

“We’re going to show that authority business was discussed at every meeting but wasn’t properly documented,” said George Mirabal’s attorney Alex Kessel during a lunch break Friday.

Valdez also testified that meetings generally drew only a handful of residents until 2010, the year The Times revealed Bell city officials’ salaries. 

Deputy Dist. Atty. Edward Miller showed Valdez salary contracts for some of the defendants. One listed former Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo’s monthly salary as $7,666. Another showed an increase that bumped her salary to $8,083 a month.

He then showed the contract for former council member Lorenzo Velez that listed his salary as $673. Velez, the lone council member not charged with misappropriation of public funds, was appointed to the council in 2009.

“Did you prepare this document?” Miller asked Valdez.

“Yes,” she said.

“And did somebody give you instructions on how to prepare it?”

“Yes.”

“Who was that?”

“The then-city manager Robert Rizzo.”

“Is the city manager an elected official?”

“No.”

“How does he get the job?”

“He applies for it and the council appoints the city manager.”

Rizzo, who is also charged in the case, is set to stand trial later this year.

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--Corina Knoll @corinaknoll

Photo: Rebecca Valdez testifies at a 2011 preliminary hearing. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

 
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