He walked into the courtroom Tuesday, dressed in a dark blue suit, and sat in the front row.
Everyone was certain this would be another perfunctory appearance by former Bell Police Chief Randy Adams, who in one brief appearance on the witness stand had invoked the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination 20 times.
But when Adams stood up and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy asked what he planned to do, the former lawman surprised everyone in the courtroom.
“I will testify,” Adams said.
When Adams takes the stand Wednesday as a defense witness in the trial of Bell’s former second-in-command, Angela Spaccia, he may help fill in some of the blanks in the scandal that rocked the small city in southeastern Los Angeles County and forced him from his job.
Although he was named in a state attorney general’s lawsuit against eight Bell officials, he has not been charged with a crime, leaving some angered.
Even Kennedy wondered why he wasn’t facing charges along with six former Bell council members, Spaccia and Robert Rizzo, the city’s former chief administrative officer. “I don’t know why he is not a defendant in this case,” Kennedy said at a routine hearing two years ago.
Questions about Adams continued to mount when he invoked the 5th Amendment repeatedly last year during a hearing in which he challenged the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s decision not to include his $457,000-a-year salary as Bell chief when computing his retirement pay. Had it been included, his pension would have jumped to $510,000 a year from about $240,000.
Speaking outside the courtroom Tuesday, Adams said he had wanted to testify but his attorneys had advised against it.
“At this point in time, I don’t have an attorney telling me not to,” he said.
Adams defended his one-year stint as Bell police chief.
“I went to the city of Bell and honorably served them as their chief,” he said. “My concern is to set forth the facts honestly and correctly.”
Although few people knew about it, Adams, 62, laid out his side of the story in a deposition taken by Bell attorneys in May in connection with his lawsuit asking the city to pay his legal bills and demanding severance pay.
The Times obtained a copy through the California Public Records Act.
Adams’ testimony under oath provides a preview of what he could be expected to say in Spaccia’s criminal case, in which she has been charged with 13 felonies. She and Rizzo are accused, among other things, of hiding Adams’ salary.
Rizzo pleaded no contest last month to 69 felonies. He could testify as a rebuttal witness for the prosecution later in the trial.
In the deposition, Adams tried to explain the infamous email exchange between him and Spaccia during contract negotiations that seemed to symbolize the greed of Bell officials. “I’m looking forward to see you and taking all of Bell’s money?!,” Adams wrote in 2009. “Okay ... just a share of it.”
Spaccia answered, “LOL ... well you can take your share of the pie ... just like us!!! … We will all get fat together.... Bob has an expression he likes to use on occasion. Pigs get Fat ... Hogs get slaughtered!!!! So as long as we’re not Hogs.... All is well!”
Adams said that he and Spaccia, friends for more than 30 years, were joking. He was getting ready to retire as Glendale’s police chief, and he said he had told Spaccia and Rizzo they would have to pay him more than he would earn from his pension and from taking temporary jobs as interim police chief.
“I kept telling them that it was going to take all of Bell’s money to hire me, and I didn’t think they could afford it,” Adams testified. “And they kept saying they could. And so I was jesting with her about that at the end of this email. And then she made a response basically that is telling me not to get greedy.”
Adams said he regretted sending the message. “Because it’s been taken way out of context and is not what was intended,” he said.
“And by her LOL it was obvious that she knew I was joking.”
Adams admitted he had never heard of a police chief earning as much as Bell paid him, not even in larger cities such as Los Angeles nor San Francisco. He also said he was worried about a controversy if people found out how much he was making.
Adams said he wondered whether Rizzo had the authority to hire him without council approval and wanted to include a document with his contract showing that the administrator had such authority. Asked why that never happened, Adams answered, “Because I trusted Angela and believed that if she was telling me he had the authority and others were telling me the same thing, that he had the authority.”
The former chief was asked if he felt differently about Spaccia when he worked in Bell. “Yes,” he said. “I’ve been very disappointed with what’s happened.”