Arrests made in Bell salary scandal

BELL - Former city manager Robert Rizzo was one of eight former and current Bell leaders arrested Tuesday on charges of misusuing more than $5.5 million in public funds."This, needless to say, is corruption on steroids," said Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley at a press conference announcing the arrests. Since the Los Angeles Times reported in July that Rizzo's annual compensation package totaled more than $1.5 million, more stories have emerged of alleged corruption. Prosecutors alleged Rizzo used city funds to loan himself and others nearly $2 million. Rizzo also allegedly gave himself pay raises without the required city council approval and without a performance evaluation. Four of the five Bell city council members took home salaries that exceeded $92,000 per year, plus another $100,000 for sitting on commissions that rarely met or met for just minutes at a time, the Times reported. "They used the tax dollars collected from the hardworking citizens of Bell as their own piggy bank, which they then looted at will," Cooley said. "This was calculated greed and theft accomplished by deceit and secrecy." In addition to Rizzo, those arrested Tuesday included Mayor Oscar Hernandez, council members Teresa Jacobo, Luis Artiga and George Mirabal; former council members George Cole and Victor Bello; and former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia. The eight defendants were arraigned Wednesday and some had already bailed out, after proving they could make bail without using illegally-obtained funds.

********** Published: September 23, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 23