According to allegation, Robert Rizzo, the former city administrator of Bell, Calif., could have been the king of swindling public sector employees not so long ago. Today, Rizzo just pleaded no contest to 69 counts in his corruption trial, according to a Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office press release. And he’s likely to get the “the longest prison term for public corruption” — the judge says 10 to 12 years — in the area since 2000.
Came in no more than a week before a jury was to be chosen, Rizzo’s plea was a surprise to everyone counting the DA. “An open plea”, this is what the DA’s office calls the move to the presiding judge and was not a negotiated settlement.
According to the DA’s statement Rizzo was part of an alleged corruption ring that reportedly included his one-time deputy and co-defendant, former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia. On Monday, her trial is scheduled to start. Furthermore, five former Bell elected officials — including a mayor, vice-mayor, and three council members — were already found guilty in March.
The reports say the ring was as brazen as it was large. The five ex-officials paid themselves salaries topping off at $100,000 yearly in a city of 35,000 people, 25 percent of whom lived underneath the poverty line. An audit had found that the officials unlawfully raised local taxes and fees to fund their salaries.
They were pikers as compared to what allegedly went on somewhere else. According to the report, Rizzo’s paycheck reached a $1.5 million peak in a year when he had 107 vacation days and 36 sick days. His salary before he resigned in July 2010 was just under what must have seemed in comparison a paltry $800,000, according to the DA’s office. Putting it into context, that’s about twice what the President of the United States makes.
According to television station KTLA, Rizzo was charged with a variety of schemes that cost the city millions of dollars, including writing his own employment contracts that never received City Council approval. It seems that, Rizzo is claiming that Spaccia was the real mastermind at the back of the fraud.
Allegations of dubious practices don’t end here. A former police chief of Bell Randy Adams was overthrown in 2010 amidst the larger pay scandal. Aside from the benefits, he had been making $457,000 yearly. Compile them and the amount go up to total compensation of $770,046. In the previous year he filed a case against the city for his separation pay, claiming that he was forced out and had never agreed to give up his severance. Throughout the suit, he was drawing a $22,000 monthly pension.