In a hearing today, two of the eight Bell city officials arrested yesterday after a salary scandal in which they allegedly inflated their salaries were released on bail. But first they had to prove that their bail money was obtained legally. The officials are accused of using public funds to pad their salaries, some making as much as $96,000 a year for part-time elected positions.
The arraignment for the officials was postponed until October 21, with the attorney for former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo requesting the delay because his client “has been in a medical facility” and had not yet had a chance to review the 53 charges against him. Rizzo is accused of banking nearly $800,000 a year.
Councilmember Luis Artiga and former councilmember George Cole are expected to be released on bail today, after satisfying the prosecutors’ demand that they pay their bail with money that’s not from the $5.5 million the eight officials allegedly illegally acquired from public funds.
An audit released today by state Controller John Chiang additionally found that the city “nearly doubled taxes for sewer, trash, recycling and lighting districts in 2007 without voter approval, then used more than $1 million of those funds to pay for raises to former City Administrator Robert Rizzo and former Assistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia.”
The audit concluded: “We found the city of Bell’s administrative and internal accounting control system to be, in effect, non-existent as all financial activities and transactions evolved around one individual — the former Chief Administrative Officer — who apparently had complete control and discretion over how city funds were used.”
Mayor Oscar Hernandez, councilmembers George Mirabal and Teresa Jacobo, and former councilmember Victor Bello were the other officials who were arrested.