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Bell mayor loses bid to have city pick up his legal costs to fight fraud charges

January 24, 2011 |  3:27 pm

Bell Bell does not have to pick up Mayor Oscar Hernandez’s legal expenses in defending himself against accusations he misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city treasury, a Superior Court judge ruled Monday.

Hernandez, who also is facing criminal corruption charges along with seven other current or former leaders in the small Los Angeles County city, was seeking to have the city pick up his legal fees in defending himself against a sweeping lawsuit filed by then-Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown.

The state’s lawsuit seeks to recover tax dollars Brown claims were improperly taken from the city.

In making the ruling, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph R. Kalin said that granting such an award would essentially be saying the mayor had proved his case. Kalin said the request for attorneys fees was premature and could be raised at a later date.

Hernandez, Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo and former Councilman George Cole have all asked the city to pick up their legal fees, saying they were sued in their official capacity as Bell public officials. The city has refused, though the court has not ruled on the requests from Jacobo and Cole.

Brown’s lawsuit itself has been teetering for weeks. A judge has expressed doubt that the state even has the standing to file such a case and urged the city to drop its case, at least until the criminal case against the officials has been resolved.

Newly elected Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris told reporters early this month she is still deciding how to proceed in the case.


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3 accused Bell officials want cash-strapped city to pay their legal bills

-- Richard Winton

Photo: Oscar Hernandez. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times