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Bell corruption trial: City clerk to begin third day of testimony

January 30, 2013 |  9:12 am
Bell city clerk

Bell City Clerk Rebecca Valdez will take the witness stand for a third day on Wednesday in the trial of six former Bell City Council members accused of misusing public funds.

Valdez testified on Tuesday that when she began working for the city, she learned the key to survival: Do whatever City Manager Robert Rizzo asked.

Valdez said she was directed to sign unfamiliar documents, hand out incorrect salary information in response to a public records request from a resident and obtain signatures for doctored salary contracts.

FULL TRIAL COVERAGE: Corruption in Bell

"The way things were run back then," she said, "I couldn't ask any questions."

Valdez is considered a crucial witness in the case against the former council members, charged with boosting their salaries to $100,000 a year by serving on boards that seldom, and sometimes never, met. Part of her job as city clerk was to keep a record of city meetings.

Valdez is expected to be followed on the witness stand by Lourdes Garcia, the city's former director of administrative services. Under Rizzo, Garcia earned $422,000 a year, among the highest salaries in the country for her position.

Her job was eliminated and replaced with a finance director. Bell's interim city manager at the time said Garcia didn't have the ability to perform the new job.

Like Valdez, she will be testifying under a grant of partial immunity.

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-- Jeff Gottlieb and Corina Knoll

Photo: Bell City Clerk Rebecca Valdez, pictured during a 2011 hearing, will take the stand for a third day in the trial of six former council members on Wednesday. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

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