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Spaccia says Bell was paying her twice what she was worth

November 07, 2013|By Steve Lopez

I'm sorry I missed testimony today about the city of Bell paying for ex-mayor Oscar Hernandez to get hair plugs and forking over $10,000 more for former Councilman George Cole to attend weight-loss camp.

On the other hand, I did get to L.A. County court in time to hear former city official Angela Spaccia say her pay was grossly bloated.

"Were you being overpaid?" asked her attorney.

Spaccia was hauling away more than $500,000 a year at one point, so she must have known that if she answered "no," the entire jury and two dozen more courtroom witnesses would have choked at the same time.

"Yes," she said.

The attorney asked her to estimate how overpaid she was.

"Twice what I needed to be paid," said Spaccia, who has pleaded not guilty to 13 criminal charges, including misappropriation of funds.

The defense strategy is crystal clear. Sure she was paid a ridiculous sum while working for Robert Rizzo, who's already pleaded no contest in the Bell scandal and could do 10 years in the big house. But did she commit a crime?

Spaccia also revealed, while choking back perfect tears, that Rizzo continued to pay her the bloated salary for several months despite the fact that she was on leave to take care of an ailing grandfather and also a son.

Her grandpa thought "I was going to lose my job," Spaccia said with Kleenex in hand. But she told him, "Don't worry, Gramps. I'll just get a new job."

You get off one gravy train, you climb aboard another, right?

In Spaccia's trial, Bell is beginning to  sound like Casablanca. Everybody's shocked about what's going on. Spaccia couldn't believe she was paid twice what she was worth, and in testimony a day earlier, former Police Chief Randy Adams couldn't believe he was paid $457,000.

Not that anyone complained.

It was like they were running a small private country club in a city filled with working poor. Hair plugs, weight-loss farms, bloated salaries. And in fact Spaccia sent Adams an electronic message with a photo of her in a bathrobe and smoking a cigar.

The party must have been fun while it lasted. But after a break today, Spaccia stopped to examine a sketch of her by courtroom artist Mona Shafer Edwards.

"Be nice," Spaccia said to the artist. "Could you erase the wrinkles?"

The wrinkles aren't the problem, Angela.

It's the 13 felony counts, and there may not be enough tears to wash all of them away.

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@LATstevelopez

steve.lopez@latimes.com

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