Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Bell and Bill Are Still Tolling in Bell, California

The Bell Still Tolls in Bell Bell’s nightmare is coming to an end. Only one corrupt city official remains to go to trial. Bell, California, a city of 40,000 in Southwest Los Angeles County, hired Robert Rizzo as its city manager in August 1993 for a salary of $72,000. one of the lowest for any city manager in California at the time. It seemed like a bargain for the economically impoverished community in which ¼ of the residents live below the poverty line. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2010 that City Manager Rizzo was drawing a salary of $787,637, which with additional perks, grew to roughly $1.5 million annually. His assistant, Angela Spaccia, was earning $376,288 and Randy Adams, the newly hired police chief, $457,000. 4 of the 5 city council members were earning about $100,000 annually for their part time services. Rizzo also authorized $millions in loans to various elected and appointed Bell officials. Angela Spaccia defended her salary when the story broke by saying “You get what you pay for.” She’s hired a high priced, highly successful lawyer for her defense. Rizzo, Spaccia and Adams resigned shortly afterwards, but filed for large pensions. Rizzo claimed $650,000 annually from CalPers and an additional $350,000 from a second pension with the city. Spaccia sought $250,000 annually and Adams $510,000. The state claimed technical violations in reducing the pensions to $50,000, $34,000, and $240,000 respectively. The voters removed all council members from office in 2011, including one who was not involved in the scandals. He had been appointed to replace a retiring council member and had apparently not been brought into the corruption. Eight civic officials were arrested on Setember 21, 2011 on various charges of corruption. The list includes Rizzo, Spaccia, Mayor Oscar Hernandez, and three current and two former council members. The presiding judge could not understand how the police chief escaped indictment. The cases illustrate the SODDI Defense (“Some Other Dude Done It”) in action. The council members claimed ignorance at trial, and blame Rizzo for any misdeeds. The jury convicted on March 3, 2013 all but one of the council members on various corruption charges. One was inexplicably acquitted. Robert Rizzo copped a plea on October 3, 2013, pleading no contest (nolo contendere) to 69 counts of misappropriating public funds, hiding or falsifying reports, and perjury. The agreement entails 10-12 years in prison, and between $1million to $3.2 million in restitution, but he did not have to allocute as part of the deal. Rizzo claims he “wants to make amends,” but clearly not full restitution. The sleezebucket’s deal, as part of his "amends," includes testifying against Angela Spaccia, claiming she was the architect of the corrupt scheme - another example both of the SODDI Defense and that there is no honor among thieves. The resulting histrionics if the master gets to testify against the apprentice could become the basis of a reality show, proving yet another cliché that the truth can be stranger than fiction. Rizzo physically looks like a toad, but acted like a rat. He unsuccessfully sought legal fees and costs for his defense from the city. The city of Bell, alas, is near bankruptcy because of the defalcations.

No comments: