This Chicago Criminal attorney wonders how the local government thought it wouldn’t get caught with its hand in the cookie jar.
Dressed in various shades of jail-issued clothing, eight current and former Bell city officials appeared in court Wednesday morning but did not enter pleas in a sweeping public-corruption case.
An attorney for former City Administrator Robert Rizzo disclosed that his client has been in a jail medical facility and that he has been unable to review the array of felony charges with his client. Rizzo is charged with 53 counts of misappropriation of public funds, falsification of documents and conflict of interest.
Two other defendants, Councilman Luis Artiga and former Councilman George Cole, are poised to post bail, their attorneys said. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said it was satisfied that both had met the requirement of proving their bail money is not coming from ill-gotten income.
The public-corruption case follows months of outrage and debate over public-employee compensation since The Times reported in July that Bell's leaders were among the nation's highest-paid municipal officials.
In filing the case, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley described Rizzo as the "unelected and unaccountable czar" of Bell, accusing him of going to elaborate lengths to keep his salary secret.
Prosecutors allege that Rizzo gave himself huge pay raises without the City Council's approval.
"This was calculated greed and theft accomplished by deceit and secrecy," Cooley said.
Rizzo's compensation package was the most extreme example of the huge paychecks earned by elected leaders and city administrator, Cooley said. Rizzo had an annual salary and benefits totaling more than $1.5 million.
Prosecutors accused him of illegally writing his own employment contracts and steering nearly $1.9 million in unauthorized city loans to himself and others.
Still wonder who has the most corrupt city government?