The chain of emails that has come to symbolize the greed of Bell's top leaders was actually a joke, the city's former second-in-command testified Wednesday in her trial on felony corruption charges.
The emails became infamous in the wake of the salary scandal in Bell that led to the arrests of eight city leaders, including Angela Spaccia, who has been on the witness stand in her own defense since last week.
Even Harland Braun, Spaccia's attorney, referred to them Wednesday as "the emails that have become so famous."
On Wednesday, Spaccia took the witness stand for the fourth day and said she was merely trying to be clever and humorous when she exchanged the emails with Randy Adams, the town's soon-to-be police chief.
Adams wrote to Spaccia in 2009 while they were negotiating the contract that would pay him $457,000 a year to be Bell's police chief, far more than the salary of the Los Angeles police chief or the police commissioner in
"I am looking forward do seeing you and taking all of Bell's money?!" Adams wrote. "Okay … just a share of it.!!
"LOL … well you can take your share of the pie … just like us!!! We all will get fat together … Bob [Rizzo] has an expression he likes to use on occasion …
"Pigs get Fat … Hogs get slaughtered!!! So long as we're not Hogs … all is well!!"
Spaccia testified that she was joking with Adams, an old friend, while at the same time getting annoyed with his demands. Spaccia said she was negotiating on behalf of Rizzo, then Bell's chief administrative officer.
"I regret that I ever joked around," Spaccia told jurors. "All I as trying to do was be nice but funny, witty. I was trying to relay Mr. Rizzo's message. He knew Mr. Rizzo's philosophy. Mr. Rizzo had already told him he could write his own ticket.... It was going to be a lot of money. In a nutshell I was saying back, ha ha ha, don't be greedy because you are being a pig."
When he testified last week, Adams also said the exchange was made in jest.
About five weeks after that first email exchange, as they continued to negotiate, Adams told Spaccia he wanted the term "pay period" defined in his contract.
Spaccia replied: "We have crafted our agreements carefully so we do not draw attention to our pay. The word Pay Period is used and not defined in order to protect you from someone taking the time to add up your salary."
Spaccia testified Wednesday that Adams wanted the definition in his contract in case Rizzo changed the pay period from every two weeks to twice a month, which would reduce his annual compensation by two weeks' pay.
"I was disgusted because he was going to get paid so much money and the city provided good benefits for all employees," said Spaccia, whose own salary had hit $564,000 a year by the time she was forced out during the growing salary scandal in Bell.
"My thought was, so what if he did? You'd lose two weeks pay, big deal," Spaccia said.
Braun said that he thought the jury got a chance to get to know his client during her testimony, and that her explanation of the emails may have helped her case.
"I don't think those emails are so shocking when you see them in context," he said.
Spaccia also testified that in 2010, she borrowed $200,000 from Rizzo's mother-in-law to buy a house in Idaho.
When the real estate deal fell through, Spaccia said she repaid Rizzo's mother-in-law $100,000 and used the remainder to help repay $130,000 she owed the city of Bell. Spaccia said she still owes Rizzo's mother-in-law $100,000, plus interest.
Prosecutors argue that the loans of city money Rizzo gave to Spaccia, other employees, a nonprofit and at least two businesses were illegal because the council never approved them.
Spaccia said she received six loans from the city.
Adams testified that Spaccia asked him for a $350,000 loan for property in Idaho in February 2010. He said he didn't give it to her.