Ex-Bell city attorney unsure how his signature got on contracts

Edward Lee, Bell’s former city attorney, said he had no reason to suspect anything was amiss with city finances.
Former Bell city attorney Edward Lee testifies during a 2011 hearing.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Bell’s former city attorney testified Monday that starting in 2005, the rapidly escalating contracts of Robert Rizzo and Angela Spaccia were never discussed nor approved by the City Council.

Edward Lee said that even though his name was on most of the contracts, he did not recall signing them, raising the possibility that his name was forged or that the papers were slipped to him in a stack of other documents that required his signature.

Lee testified that in order for the Rizzo and Spaccia contracts to be legal, they would have to have been placed on council agendas, discussed in public meetings and then be approved by a council majority.

FULL COVERAGE: Corruption in Bell


Asked if it appeared to be his signature on a July 1, 2008, addendum to Rizzo’s contract, Lee replied, “Unfortunately, yes.”

But, he added, he had no idea how it got there.

Lee’s testimony came during the second week of Spaccia’s corruption trial, in which she faces 13 felonies. Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 corruption-related charges and is expected to be sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison.

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Lee, who served as Bell’s contract attorney from 1996 until shortly after the corruption scandal broke, said that after voters passed a city charter in 2005, he never saw Rizzo’s contract come before the council.

Asked by Spaccia’s attorney, Harland Braun, why he never brought it up, he replied, “I figured that was between Mr. Rizzo and the City Council… Either the council is going to raise it with me or Mr. Rizzo is going to raise it with me.”

The former city attorney said he had no indications of anything illegal going on in the city, “nothing that rang any alarm bells that said there was a legal issue I needed to look at.”

He said independent auditors didn’t bring up problems with finances and there were no questions from the staff.

“It all appeared from the surface the city of Bell was doing well,” he said.


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