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Bell City Council may be unable to meet with one member in jail; second member set to make announcement

October 4, 2010 |  2:12 pm

One councilman remains jailed and a second has called a late afternoon press conference, raising doubts there will be enough elected city leaders in Bell to hold a legal meeting Monday -- the first scheduled council session since the arrest of all but one councilmember.

Councilman George Mirabal remains behind bars, unable thus far to post his $260,000 bail. Mayor Oscar Hernandez and council members Teresa Jacobo and Luis Artiga are free on bail. All are accused of misappropriating money from the small, working-class city in what prosecutors contend was a far-ranging public corruption scheme.

But Artiga announced Monday that he would be holding an afternoon press conference at his attorney’s office in Sherman Oaks.

Since the salary scandal was revealed in July by The Times, Artiga has several times publicly discussed quitting the council.

The Bell City Council can legally meet with just three members, though interim city manager Pedro Carrillo said he’s uncertain who will show up for the council meeting. Hernandez, Jacobo and Artiga have not appeared at a public meeting since their arrests.

Artiga has apologized several times for the huge salaries for city administrators and elected officials in Bell and the city’s apparent lack of financial oversight.

"I failed," Artiga said days before his arrest. "I should have asked more questions. I should have investigated more. I let the community down and I ask for a humble forgiveness."

In addition to all but one council member, the city’s former administrator and assistant administrator were also arrested in the public corruption case. Former city administrator Robert Rizzo remains jailed on $2-million bail. Former assistant city administrator Angela Spaccia is free on bail.

-- Ruben Vives and Jeff Gottlieb