Bell witness: Rizzo tried to confuse "unsophisticated" council
A former Bell administrator testified Friday that ethics were not encouraged at City Hall and that the former city manager intentionally wrote resolutions in a way that he hoped council members would be confused by what they read.
Returning to the witness stand in the trial of six former council members accused of misappropriation of public funds, Lourdes Garcia said that during the time she served as director of administrative services in Bell she had the sense that Robert Rizzo disapproved of people concerned about ethics.
"Mr. Rizzo was always giving me directions that gave me the perspective that he did not want ethics in the organization," Garcia said.
She recalled a time when Rizzo pulled her aside to complain after hearing that an employee was taking a continuing education class in ethics.
Garcia also testified that Rizzo asked her to help draft resolutions for council agendas. She resisted but said Rizzo had a strong hold on the staff when it came to his demands.
"He would always state that it was for the greater good of the organization," she said.
Garcia testified that after she drafted a resolution, Rizzo, and sometimes then-Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, would revise it so that it was more ambiguous and confusing.
Rizzo told her that the City Council wasn't sophisticated enough to understand city government, Garcia said.
"He put things in more complicated, less clear language in the titles, correct?" defense attorney Ronald Kaye asked.
"And he would often criticize you when you had a title, saying, 'You're making it look like an open book.' Correct?"
Garcia, who was earning $422,000 in total compensation before the Times broke the news in 2010 about the city's salaries, was granted immunity for her testimony. Her position was eliminated in 2011.
Former council members Luis Artiga, Victor Bell, George Cole, Oscar Hernandez, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal could all face prison terms if convicted of misusing public money.
-- Corina Knoll
Photo: Lourdes Garcia at a Bell City Council meeting in 2010. Credit: Christina House / For The Times.