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Jury selection to begin in Bell council members' corruption case

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in the trial of six former Bell council members accused of corruption. 

George Cole, Luis Artiga, Oscar Hernandez, Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal and Victor Bello are accused of being paid for attending meetings of city boards, such as the Surplus Property Authority and the Public Finance Authority, that seldom met, if ever, and then only for a minute or two.

They received $1,575 a month for each of the five boards, boosting their salaries to nearly $100,000 a year, among the highest in the state for part-time council members.

FULL COVERAGE: Corruption in Bell

A Times review of city records showed the Surplus Property Authority met once between January 2007 and July 2010. The Public Finance Authority met only three times during that period. The Housing Authority met four times in 2008. The Solid Waste and Recycling Authority had not met since January 2005.

Council members have said they weren't aware they were being paid for the boards, that the money they received was their City Council salaries. They also have argued that their jobs were full time.

The court Tuesday will pass out questionnaires for 100 prospective jurors to fill out. They will return Jan. 22 for questioning by attorneys. The trial is expected to start around Jan. 24 and could last as long as two months.

The trials of Robert Rizzo, Bell's former chief administrative officer, and Angela Spaccia, the assistant administrator, are expected to follow.

They face numerous corruption charges, including paying themselves outsized salaries without council approval; lending city money to Bell employees, including themselves, without the council's OK; hiding their salaries and those of other city employees; and illegally boosting their retirement benefits.

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-- Jeff Gottlieb

 
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