“This is corruption on steroids,” Cooley said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The face of the corruption, former City Manager Robert Rizzo, was charged with 53 counts of misappropriating public funds and conflict of interest.
Among the allegations is that beginning in 2008, Rizzo wrote his own employment contracts that were never approved by the City Council.
The Times detailed the arrest of Rizzo:
At 10 a.m., officials emerged from Rizzo’s luxury home in Huntington Beach. Rizzo, handcuffed, was escorted into a black SUV. In Bell, a neighbor of [Mayor Oscar Hernandez] said authorities used a battering ram on his front door after he failed to answer the door.
“They broke the door down,” said the neighbor, who only gave his name as Jose. “They knocked down the door and they brought him out in cuffs.”
Others arrested include:
- Angela Spaccia, former assistant city manager
- Oscar Hernandez, mayor
- George Mirabal, councilmember
- Teresa Jacobo, councilmember
- Luis Artiga, councilmember
- George Cole, former councilmember
- Victor Bello, former councilmember
“We are alleging they used the tax dollars collected from the hard-working citizens of Bell as their own piggy bank, which they looted at will,” Cooley said at a press conference, according to a release.
Cooley stated that those councilmembers who earned salaries of nearly $100,000 received $1.2 million for “phantom meetings.”
Cooley alleges that Rizzo gave unauthorized loans worth nearly $1.9 million to himself, Spaccia, Artiga, Hernandez and dozens of others.
Former Police Chief Randy Adams, who earned a reported $457,000, was not arrested. Cooley stated, “Being paid excessive amounts is not a crime.”
The following statement was released by the city of Bell:
“Given the sheer volume of charges levied against former Bell Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo and former Assistant CAO Angela Spaccia by the district attorney, it is clear that Rizzo and Spaccia were at the root of the cancer that has afflicted the City of Bell.
“Also, it is a sad day for Bell that four current and two former members of the council also have been arrested. I am prepared to double down our efforts to continue to restore order, establish good government reforms, and to ensure that Bell is providing needed services to its residents,” said Pedro Carrillo, interim city manager.
James Spencer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org