A Los Angeles jury is weighing the fate of a former ranking administrator in Bell who prosecutors claim was one of the architects of the widespread corruption that left the working-class town on the edge of bankruptcy.
Angela Spaccia was described by prosecutors as the spark plug for the high salaries and generous benefit packages that were awarded key officials in the Los Angeles County city, someone who worked tirelessly to “suck” money from the town.
But Spaccia, who took the stand in her own defense, said she was a victim of her controlling, manipulative boss Robert Rizzo, the city’s former chief executive. She claimed she never asked for the huge salaries she was paid, which grew to $564,000 by the time she was forced out, but was “grateful” for the large paycheck.
In a final push Friday to sway jurors, Deputy Dist. Atty Sean Hassett described Spaccia as a liar and a thief.
"That money was meant for the city of Bell, it was meant for their parks, it was meant for their use," Hassett said. "It's their tax dollars being stolen by the defendant who they trusted."
Jurors are being asked to sift through the contrasting profiles of Spaccia and determine whether to convict her on any or all of 13 felony counts, including misappropriating public funds, conflict of interest and secretion of public records.
The trial is likely the final chapter in the long-running Bell salary scandal, which exploded in 2010 when it was revealed that the small town’s leaders were among the highest paid municipal employees in California and that the city was approaching insolvency even as paychecks continued to climb.
Rizzo pleaded no contest last month to 69 felony corruption counts and is expected to be sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison.
Five of six former Bell council members were convicted this year of misappropriation of public funds and await sentencing.
Spaccia and Rizzo have each accused the other of masterminding the corruption scheme, but Rizzo’s decision to enter a plea left Spaccia alone to face the most serious charges.