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Ex-Bell councilwoman believed Rizzo was a 'very good' city manager

February 11, 2013 | 12:08 pm

Teresa Jacobo in court in January. Credit: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times

Former Bell councilwoman Teresa Jacobo -- accused along with five former colleagues in a far-reaching municipal corruption case -- testified Monday that she was a hard-working leader who tried her best to improve the lives of her constituents.

Jacobo also testified she believed that then-city manager Robert Rizzo was doing a good job up until 2010 –- the year she, her colleagues and Rizzo were arrested on suspicion of looting the small town’s treasury.

Jacobo is accused of misappropriating public funds by drawing a near-$100,000 salary for serving on boards and commissions that did little work. Prosecutors contend the high salaries paid to Bell’s leaders left the largely immigrant city near the edge of insolvency.

FULL COVERAGE: Bell corruption trial

Rizzo is accused of 69 corruption-related charges.

“Do you believe it was good for the citizens of Bell to have you as a council member?” Jacobo’s attorney Shepard Kopp asked.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because I was working very hard to improve the lives of the citizens of Bell. I was bringing in programs and working with them to build leadership and good families, strong families.”

On Friday, Deputy Dist. Atty Edward Miller had asked Jacobo if she thought giving herself pay raises was good for the citizens of Bell. Initially she replied: “I don’t understand your question.”

Later that afternoon, pointing out that Bell had a median household income of $35,000, Miller asked the same question.

“I thought I was doing a very good job to be able to earn that, yes,” Jacobo said.

On Monday, Kopp asked Jacobo about the four boards that prosecutors say defendants used to boost their salaries to nearly $100,000. Jacobo, along with Luis Artiga, Victor Bello, George Cole, Oscar Hernandez and George Mirabal, is accused of doing little work on those authorities.

Jacobo said she understood the resolution that first introduced the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority to be merely a legal process and that its purpose was to discuss how to form such an authority. At the time, the city was planning on getting rid of its contracted trash services.

“We needed to look ahead,” she testified. “We had five years to see what we could do and the idea was to have Bell have their own trash company.”

Richard Fierro, a witness called by the defense, testified that he had been a contract manager for Consolidated Disposal Services when the city of Bell terminated the company’s contract around 2005. The city claimed the company was not picking up residents’ bulky items in a timely manner, Fierro said.

But Fierro testified it actually took six years to terminate the contract.

Jacobo said it was Rizzo who drafted resolutions regarding pay increases for the authorities.

“Did you have any reason to suspect that Mr. Rizzo was doing anything improper when he brought these pay raises before the council?” Kopp asked Jacobo.

“No.”

“What was your opinion about the job that Mr. Rizzo was doing for the city of Bell until 2010?”

“I believed he was doing a very effective job. We had a lot of good things going in the city of Bell and I always felt that he was a very good city manager.”

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-- Corina Knoll

Photo: Teresa Jacobo in court in January. Credit: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times

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