The former council members have said that they considered their jobs to be full-time, and believed they were being paid for their role on the council rather than on the boards.
During her testimony in February, Jacobo said she understood the resolution that first introduced the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority to be merely a legal process meant to evaluate how to form such an authority. At the time, the city was ostensibly planning to get rid of its contracted trash services and do the job itself, with its own solid waste plant.
"We needed to look ahead," she testified.
In his closing argument to jurors, Deputy Dist. Atty. Edward Miller said: "The solid waste plant never got sketched — not on a blackboard, not on any kind of proposal, not even on a cocktail napkin."
Since the scandal broke, most of the attention has been focused on Rizzo, whose compensation was scheduled to hit $1.5 million a year, which would have made him the highest paid public pensioner in California when he retired.
Municipal experts said the paychecks received by the leaders of Bell, with a population of roughly 35,000, were unheard of. When The Times revealed that the council members' salaries were approaching six figures, Hernandez, the mayor at the time, defended the pay. "In a troubled city, the City Council should get paid a little more," he said.
The high salaries formed a chapter in a larger story of municipal corruption that left the city creeping toward insolvency, authorities maintain.
Backed up to the Los Angeles River in the urban gray of southeast Los Angeles County, Bell is a town where the normal checks and balances unraveled: The city manager lent $1.9 million of city dollars to workers and businesses, taxes were illegally increased, and pensions were padded.
Besides Rizzo, four other employees received compensation of more than $400,000 a year, placing them among the 25 highest paid public officials in the state, according to Bell's current city attorney. A running theme in the four-week trial was of a city government in disarray. The first witness was Bell's city clerk, who testified that she signed minutes of meetings she never attended and that she was ordered to provide false salaries to a resident who had made a public records request. Working for Bell meant asking few questions, she said.
Other witnesses described a City Hall under Rizzo's full control.
Although blame was repeatedly placed on Rizzo, who was Bell's city administrator for 17 years, and then-City Atty. Edward Lee, the defense gave a variety of explanations for the salaries.
Jacobo said Rizzo told her she could quit her job as a real estate agent and work full time for the city. She said she trusted that the city attorney would have flagged anything illegal.
Cole said that he voted for a 12% annual pay raise only because he feared that if he opposed the Rizzo-written resolution, the city manager would, out of vengeance, gut the programs he worked hard to implement.
Hernandez's attorney said his client, known more for his heart than his intellect, had only a grade-school education and lacked the sophistication to know that the salaries could be illegal.
The case was brought by then-Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who called the situation in Bell "corruption on steroids."
In an interview Wednesday, Cooley said he was pleased with the verdict and was anticipating the trial for Rizzo and Spaccia.
"There are still some chapters that need to be written in terms of the justice system's response to the Bell scandal," he said. "We will wait for that to be resolved in a couple of months, but I think this is a step in the right direction. I hope that public entities both here in Los Angeles County and elsewhere get a message that they cannot all loot the public treasury with abandon."email@example.com
Times staff writers Christopher Goffard, Jeff Gottlieb, Hector Becerra, Joseph Serna, Jack Leonard, Andrew Blankstein, Samantha Schaefer and Kate Mather contributed to this report.