Former Bell attorney testifies that city appeared to be ‘doing well’

Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo sits in court alongside former second-in-command Angela Spaccia in 2011.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Bell’s former city attorney testified that he had no idea the town’s top administrator was lending city money or that key executives had steadily been taking larger and larger paychecks.

“It all appeared from the surface the city of Bell was doing well, ” said Edward Lee, who served as city attorney starting in 1996.

Lee testified Monday in the government’s case against Angela Spaccia, the former second-in-command in Bell who is now facing 13 corruption-related charges. Testimony in the case continued Tuesday.

FULL COVERAGE: Corruption in Bell


The former city attorney said that even though his signature appears on contracts that awarded Spaccia and former City Administrator Robert Rizzo huge raises, he has no idea how it got there, raising the possibility that the documents were forged or slipped into a stack of ordinary paperwork that Lee would have typically signed.

Lee’s testimony came during the second week of Spaccia’s corruption trial. Rizzo has pleaded no contest to 69 corruption-related charges and is expected to be sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison. Five former council members were convicted in an earlier trial of misappropriating public funds.

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.

TIMELINE: Bell corruption ‘on steroids’

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.”


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