The conviction this week of former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia for plundering the small working-class city of Bell to enrich herself — along with former City Manager Robert Rizzo's plea to 69 similar charges in October — closes one of the final chapters in the long-running graft-and-
Spaccia was found guilty of 11 felony counts Monday, including misappropriation of public funds, conflict of interest and concealing public documents. During the 4 1/2-week trial, prosecutors and witnesses detailed how she and Rizzo managed to siphon more and more money from public coffers.
Spaccia, for example, was paid for a full 18 months when she wasn't working; she didn't use a single sick day or vacation day. Rizzo and Spaccia also awarded themselves 33 hours of vacation time every two weeks. They buried their total compensation in various reports and documents, making it extremely difficult for anyone to figure out how much they were earning. By the end of his time in Bell, Rizzo earned $1.18 million a year in salary, vacation and sick leave payouts. Spaccia earned $564,000 annually.
It's satisfying to see Rizzo and Spaccia pay for their greed and their disregard for the common good. But justice isn't enough. Bell fell prey to these thieves because government stopped answering to the public, and because an apathetic public failed to question the government. As Rizzo and Spaccia go off to prison, it's important to ask: Have we learned the lessons of Bell? And have we made the changes necessary to prevent another such scandal?
There was a flurry of legislation passed after The Times exposed the corruption in Bell. Former Gov.