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Bell trial: D.A. investigator returns to witness stand

February 5, 2013 |  1:13 pm

 Former Bell Councilman Victor Bello during opening statements in ongoing trial. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

The lead investigator for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office's public integrity division resumed his testimony on Tuesday in the trial of six former Bell City Council members accused of corruption.

Craig Rhudy testified Monday that former council members drew most of their nearly $100,000 salaries from panels that seldom met.

He verified several charts he created that listed how often four different authorities met between 2006 and 2010 and what those boards added to the paychecks of defendants Luis Artiga, Victor Bello, George Cole, Oscar Hernandez, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal.

CRISIS IN BELL: High salaries stir outrage

Defense attorneys said that their clients' work was not always reflected in the agendas and minutes that Rhudy used to generate the charts.

They also argued that such paperwork was unreliable, as earlier testimony revealed that former city manager Robert Rizzo had revised the agendas, the Bell city clerk's signature was forged on documents and the clerk signed documents for meetings she never attended.

"His analysis is only as good as the records themselves," Hernandez's attorney Stanley L. Friedman said of Rhudy.

Rhudy is the fourth witness to take the stand in the trial.

Also on Monday, Joy Fong, a retirement program specialist for CalPERS, verified the monthly amount the defendants are being paid through the state retirement fund.

Cole receives $4,018; Mirabal, $262; Jacobo, $196; Bello, $186; and Hernandez, $122. Artiga, who is also on trial, is not receiving any pension payments because he was not in office long enough to be vested in CalPERS.

After their high salaries were reported, CalPERS decided that the former council members, who each made nearly $100,000 a year, should have their retirement payments reduced to between $1,000 and $2,000 a year. Cole receives a higher sum, but must also now pay back a large, undisclosed sum.

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-- Corina Knoll

Photo: Former Bell Councilman Victor Bello during opening statements in ongoing trial. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

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