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Bell mayor tricked into signing Rizzo, Spaccia contracts, clerk says

Crime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemCity of Bell Public Corruption Scandal

Bell’s former city clerk told jurors that she slipped the lucrative contracts for city administrators Robert Rizzo and Angela Spaccia into stacks of unrelated documents that mayors would typically sign, even though the City Council never approved them.

Sometimes, Rebecca Valdez testified Wednesday, Rizzo himself would slip the contracts into the stack of documents for the mayor to sign.

Valdez, who now works for the city as a senior human relations analyst, said she would use a paper clip to attach a signature page on top of the actual contract, so it wouldn't be apparent what was being signed. For contracts to be valid, they needed the signatures of the employee, the mayor and the city attorney. In some cases, the slot for the city attorney was removed, she said.

FULL COVERAGE: Corruption in Bell

For the contracts to be legal, the City Council must approve them during a public meeting, something that prosecutors claim didn’t happen.

Valdez, who was offered immunity in exchange for her testimony, was the prosecution’s final witness in Spaccia’s corruption trial. The former second in command in Bell's city administration, Spaccia is accused of 13 felonies. Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 corruption-related charges this month and is expected to be sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison. Five former council members were convicted of misappropriating public funds but have not been sentenced.

Harland Braun, Spaccia’s attorney, asked the former city clerk, “Didn’t it make you suspicious that Mr. Rizzo would take his contracts and slip them into a stack of documents?”

TIMELINE: Bell corruption 'on steroids'

“At the time I didn’t question him,” she said.

Valdez testified she was given the city clerk title in 2004 when the elected clerk moved out of town. Still, she said, the old clerk continued to perform the duties of the position. Asked what her qualifications for the job were, Valdez replied, “I lived in Bell.”

She said she wasn’t told what her duties were “other than I would be holding the title.”

The trial continued Thursday with the defense calling its first witness, Spaccia's brother.

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jeff.gottlieb@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Crime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemCity of Bell Public Corruption Scandal
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