A jury on Monday found a former municipal administrator guilty of 11 counts of felony public corruption that took place in Bell, the Los Angeles County city that made headlines worldwide with the revelation of officials’ extraordinarily high salaries.
Angela Spaccia, former assistant city manager in Bell, was charged in a corruption scheme that inflated her salary along with that of ex-City Manager Robert Rizzo and City Council members.
Bell, a city of about 35,000 largely low-income and Latino residents, was left nearly bankrupt by the plot, prosecutors said.
Four weeks of complicated testimony and argument concluded when the case was sent to the jury Nov. 22. Jurors had thousands of pages of documents that comprise a complex paper trail.
After the judge asked twice for the jurors to clarify their findings, the verdict was read Monday evening in a courtroom at the downtown Los Angeles Superior Court criminal justice building.
Spaccia had been charged with one count of conspiracy to misappropriate public funds, six counts of misappropriation of public funds, four counts of conflict of interest and two counts of secretion of official record.
The jury of eight women and four men found Spaccia guilty on 11 counts, but not guilty of one: secretion of official record. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on one count of misappropriation of public funds, and a mistrial was declared in that charge.
The jury accepted prosecutors’ arguments that Spaccia had written her own employment contracts, taken loans without council approval, removed public documents and created her own retirement plan that would have cost Bell taxpayers $8 million, according to the DA’s office.
“I am pleased the jury viewed this extremely complex case for precisely what it was – greed,” District Attorney Lacey said in a written statement about Spaccia and Rizzo. “Their unbridled greed also forced Bell’s 35,000 hardworking residents to pay higher tax rates than residents of Beverly Hills.”
In October, just before the jury trial began, Rizzo pleaded no contest to all 69 counts he faced, leaving Spaccia to face the brunt of prosecutors’ arguments alone.
Rizzo was set to be sentenced in March. His attorney claimed Spaccia was the mastermind, while Spaccia’s attorney claimed Rizzo came up with the scheme.
Spaccia made $564,000 per year and Rizzo made $1.18 million, according to the Los Angeles Times, which first broke the Bell story in 2010.
Rizzo had been expected to testify against Spaccia, but he did not take the stand.
A prosecutor called her a liar and a thief.
She was told to return to court for sentencing on Jan. 22.
In a separate trial that ended in March, five of six former Bell City Council members who were charged with various counts of misappropriation of public funds were found guilty. They were set to return to court Dec. 13 to face remaining felony counts.