Corruption Trial Begins for “Bell 6″
BELL, Calif. (KTLA) — Opening statements began Thursday morning in the corruption trial of the so-called “Bell 6.”
Now facing trial are former city council members George Cole, George Mirabal, Oscar Hernandez, Luis Artiga, Victor Bello and Teresa Jacobo.
They are accused of raiding the city’s treasury to boost their own salaries during Robert Rizzo’s reign as city manager.
The council members made $100,000 per year, mostly for sitting on boards that met only rarely, if ever.
Former District Attorney Steve Cooley famously described the scandal as “corruption on steroids.”
On Wednesday, jury selection was completed, with eight women and four men picked in the case, along with six alternates.
Rizzo and and his former assistant, Angela Spaccia, will stand trial at a later date.
Their attorneys are asking for a change of venue.
Rizzo and the other officials have pleaded not guilty and deny any wrongdoing.
In the wake of the scandal, Bell has taken steps toward recovery, including slashing its general fund from $16 million to $12 million and balancing the budget.
Council meetings are now streamed online, and the city has cut fees that ballooned under Rizzo for things like trash pickup and building permits.
Rizzo collected a salary of $800,000.
Current city manager Doug Willmore makes $175,000 for the same job, making him the city’s highest-paid employee.