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Bell: Judge refuses to toss out corruption charges against Rizzo

February 28, 2012 |  3:24 pm

Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday.

A Los Angeles County judge refused Tuesday to dismiss charges against the former city administrator of Bell and his chief assistant, who are accused of being the architects of a scheme to fatten their paychecks, draw generous fringe benefits and lend the city’s money to friends, colleagues and local business interests.

Robert Rizzo and his top assistant, Angela Spaccia, are among eight former city leaders accused in a massive public corruption case that left the city financially and politically shaken.

Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy did, however, dismiss several felony charges against a former mayor and councilman, ruling that neither of the elected leaders knew they were breaking the law by accepting cash loans from Rizzo.

FULL COVERAGE: High salaries stir outrage in Bell

Former City Councilman Luis Artiga used one of two $20,000 loans he received to adopt a 2-year-old girl from Tijuana, and former former Mayor Oscar Hernandez received $20,000 to buy new equipment for the small grocery store he operated in town.

Spaccia also received loans from the city, collecting more than $300,000, part of which she reportedly used to buy a house. Rizzo lent himself money as well, according to the charges, and replenished his own $80,000 loan several times.

Both Hernandez and Artiga still face felony charges for allegedly collecting excessive pay for sitting on city boards and commissions that rarely, if ever, met.

The pay the council members received for serving on boards such as the Surplus Property Authority and the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority pushed their salaries to nearly six figures, even though they held part-time positions.

By 2010, council members were receiving $1,453 a month for serving on each of four boards.


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Photo: Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times