Bell Official Convicted of 11 Felonies
LOS ANGELES (CN) - A jury convicted Bell's former assistant city manager Pier' Angela Spaccia in a salary scandal that made national headlines.
The jury on Monday found Spaccia guilty of 11 of 13 felony counts, including conspiracy to misappropriate public funds, five counts of misappropriation of public funds, four counts of conflict of interest and one count of secretion of official record.
The jury of eight women and four men found Spaccia had written her own employment contracts, took loans without asking the City Council, removed public documents and treated herself to an $8 million retirement plan.
Bell, pop. 36,500, is one of Los Angeles County's poorest cities. It came to represent the height of government corruption when the salaries of its top officials were revealed : its six highest-paid administrators were paid combined annual salaries of $6 million - far more than the president of the United States.
"I am pleased the jury viewed this extremely complex case for precisely what it was - greed," Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. "Their reign of fraud left the working-class city of 35,000 nearly bankrupt. Their unbridled greed also forced Bell's 35,000 hard-working residents to pay higher tax rates than residents of Beverly Hills."
Spaccia's boss, City Manager Robert Rizzo, in October pleaded no-contest to 69 felony counts.
In March, a jury found five former City Council members - Oscar Hernandez, George Mirabal, Teresa Jacobo, George Cole and Victor Bello - guilty of using a sham city waste and recycling agency to pay themselves.
Spaccia ducked a charge of misappropriation of public funds after Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy declared a mistrial on that count. Spaccia was found not guilty of one count of secretion of official record.
She is to be sentenced on Jan. 22, 2014.
Rizzo is expected to receive a lengthy prison term for public corruption when he is sentenced next year, but the Los Angeles Times reported that he will get to keep his city pension of $116,000 a year, in addition to pension fund that once held $1 million.
Current Bell City Councilman Nestor Valencia thanked the jury, while saying that the city is "still paying" for Spaccia's crimes.
"It has been long coming for the residents, past and present, of the City of Bell. Our activism has come to fruition and justice has served us well," Valencia wrote in an email to Courthouse News.
The five former council members will return to court later this month to stand trial on other felony counts.