The woman who was second in command in the city of Bell when a corruption scandal revealed astonishingly high salaries for municipal officials said Friday that she was not behind the plot, as her former boss alleges.
Angela Spaccia, former assistant city manager in the small, largely Latino city southeast of downtown Los Angeles, said she believes she’ll be exonerated in a massive public corruption trial that is set to begin soon.
In a surprise move Thursday, former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 charges he faced. Through his attorney, he said he would show Spaccia as the “mastermind” of the plans that left Bell nearly bankrupt, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“It’s an unbelievable story,” Spaccia told news media outside a downtown LA courtroom on Friday.
Rizzo made nearly $800,000 annually, while Spaccia earned close to $400,000. Elected officials lined their pockets as well.
The case made headlines across the country and put Bell in the spotlight as a symbol of public corruption and fraud.
In March, five out of six former elected city officials were found guilty of various counts of misappropriation of public funds. Only one councilman out of the “Bell 6″ was found not guilty.
On Friday, Spaccia said she expected Rizzo to accuse her in order to shorten his own sentence. Rizzo faces 10 to 12 years in prison after his plea, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
“I did make too much money,” Spaccia told reporters. “That’s not a crime, and I did not negotiate what I was going to make.
“Rizzo was very generous with everyone,” she added.
On Thursday, Spaccia’s defense attorney, Harland Braun, said it was “absurd” that Rizzo was claiming Spaccia was behind the scheme.
“Everyone knows Rizzo is the mastermind,” Braun said.
The judge in the case had become “part of the prosecution’s team” by allowing Rizzo’s plea, Braun said Friday.
Jury selection in Spaccia’s trial was set to begin Monday.