Thursday, February 17, 2011

Suburban City Officials Charged With Looting $5.5 Million

Los Angeles - Bell is a small blue collar industrial suburb situated on the west bank of the Los Angeles River along freeway that leads from East L. A. to Long Beach.

In the past few years, property taxes have risen dramatically and gasoline taxes have been diverted to other purposes than those designated for motor fuel use. The result is that the city is $4.5 million in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy.

There is a reason for all that and Superior Court Judge Henry Hall ruled yesterday that the reason is misappropriation of public funds perpetrated by the mayor, vice mayor three city councilmen and a city manager who raised their salaries to as much as 20 times more than what the law will allow.

They have been charged with two dozen felony counts and, based on the evidence the judge heard during a two-week pre-trial hearing, they will be arraigned on March 2.
All have been ordered to stay at least 100 yards away from City Hall as “a matter of grave public safety to the people of Bell,” the judge wrote in his order.

He noted that they could have been charged with even more crimes when the Mayor's defense attorney complained that his client and the other defendants would thereby be barred from administering the city's needs.

He and other attorneys took up the bulk of the time spent in the pre-trial hearing eliciting testimony from witnesses who spoke in glowing terms of the defendants' good works on behalf of the poor people who live in Bell.

Unmoved, the judge replied that he had been contemplating putting the mayor and 4 others back in jail to await the arraignment to ensure they keep their mitts off the city's money and stay away from its administrative offices, but decided not to go that far.

Besides, he told the mayor's attorney, the officials had been skipping City Council meetings in favor of other activities for months since the salary scandal first broke.

"These people were elected to be the voice of the people, to be a safeguard," Judge Hall said. "And they basically sold that off."

Mayor Oscar Hernandez, Vice Mayor Teresa Jacobo, Councilman George Mirabal and former council members George Cole, Luis Artiga and Victor Bello are charged with taking part in a scam with former City Manager Robert Rizzo and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia that looted the city of $5.5 million.

No comments:

Post a Comment