Months before the scandal in Bell broke, Angela Spaccia said she left seven phone messages with the district attorney’s office to talk about the ongoing investigation in neighboring Maywood, where she was filling in as the city manager.
Spaccia, who was also second in command in Bell and is now being tried on felony corruption charges, volunteered to talk with prosecutors.
Harland Braun, Spaccia’s attorney, on Tuesday played a recording of a phone message his client left a deputy district attorney in March 2010.
“This is not the voice of someone trying to cover up fraud,” Braun told The Times.
“The D.A.'s office blew it,” Braun said of the Maywood investigation. “They had the opportunity to get in there and to help straighten it out.”
In a transcript of the call prepared by Braun’s office, Spaccia does not tell the D.A. she has evidence of a crime, but seems worried the investigation was affecting employees, calling it “an unfortunate situation.”
“I would really love to talk with you about the possibility of actually coming in and having you guys do your reviews and investigation soon,” she says.
“The employees are stressed to the max, there’s just so many issues going on and this pending, looming D.A. investigation is, gosh, the impact on the employees is I can’t even begin to explain. It’s just tremendous and I would sure love to help them all just get past this and if there are any issues that need to be identified or resolved I would love to actually be part of that process in making this all happen.”
Spaccia testified she eventually got a call from Deputy Dist. Atty. Jennifer Lentz Snyder, who said she would have someone call her. Spaccia said no one ever called her.
But while Braun said the call showed his client was offering to help the district attorney, one of the prosecutors in Spaccia’s ongoing trial contended she was actually trying to learn details about the Maywood investigation.
“She’s fishing,” Sean Hassett said. “She wants to find out what we’re looking into, what we know, who we’re investigating, who are targets, what is the scope of investigation.”
Hassett declined to say whether Spaccia was a target of the investigation.
The district attorney never charged anyone in Maywood and instead focused in on Bell, where eight city leaders — including Spaccia — were arrested in a sweeping corruption case several months later.
The phone message was recorded a few days after soon-to-be Bell Police Chief Randy Adams emailed Spaccia a short article in The Times that said the district attorney had launched an investigation into alleged misconduct by Maywood officials, including misappropriation of public funds, whether officials broke the law by hiring Spaccia and whether there was a conflict of interest in her hiring because she also worked for Bell.
She testified she knew that before Adams agreed to take the job in Bell in 2009, someone in the D.A.'s office had told him there were no problems in the city. Adams testified he spoke to the D.A.'s liaison with county police chiefs.
Spaccia testified she knew from Maywood residents that the city was being investigated and that if she could talk to Snyder “I could get her to be more responsive.”
Snyder declined to comment.
Under Spaccia’s leadership, Maywood turned over its municipal operations to Bell and disbanded its troubled police force, contracting the job to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Five of the six former Bell City Council members arrested in the corruption case were convicted and Bell’s former city administrator, Robert Rizzo, last month pleaded no contest to 69 felony counts and is expected to be sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison.