Angela Spaccia was so obsessed with making money and making sure that her paychecks were deposited promptly that it became a running joke among City Hall workers in the small, working-class town of Bell.
Staffers joked that Spaccia was “sleeping with her paycheck,” former Bell finance director Lourdes Garcia testified Monday.
Spaccia is standing trial on 13 felony counts in the Bell corruption trials, one of eight former city officials who were accused of looting City Hall by paying themselves huge salaries and collecting generous benefits. Robert Rizzo, once the city’s top administrator, has pleaded no contest on 69 corruption charges, and five of six former council members have been convicted of misappropriating public funds.
Garcia said Spaccia was receiving so much vacation and sick time that it amounted to nearly a 50% bonus, pushing her paycheck to $564,000 a year. She also took hundreds of thousands of dollars of unauthorized loans from the city.
If the direct deposit to Spaccia’s bank account was just the slightest bit late, Garcia said, she would call the city staffer in charge of payroll.
Garcia said that after Rizzo doubled Spaccia’s vacation and sick leave, Garcia became concerned about the high salaries being paid top city officials.
“I told Mr. Rizzo we needed to stop the increases because the city was not in a position to bear the costs.” she said.
Garcia was set to earn more than $400,000 a year in salary and benefits, and other Bell workers were paid far more than their counterparts in other cities.
The former financial chief said she had no idea that Rizzo’s compensation increases were illegal. “Mr. Rizzo would say we’re all very well compensated. He would say this in front of the attorneys.”
She said Spaccia and Rizzo were close and worked together.
“She’s behind everything,” Garcia said.
She testified that even after taking a couple of days off, Spaccia would comment that she had been on the phone to Rizzo.
When Spaccia took time off, according to Garcia, it was never marked against her sick time. Even when she took off six months to care for her ailing grandparents or took months off to nurse her son after a severe motorcycle accident, she continued to get paid, Garcia said.