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Bell case witness: Rizzo was actually making $1.18 million

October 25, 2013|By Jeff Gottlieb
  • Former Bell administrators Angela Spaccia and Robert Rizzo in court together in 2011.
Former Bell administrators Angela Spaccia and Robert Rizzo in court together… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

Despite having some of the highest salaries for their positions in California, former Bell administrators Robert Rizzo and Angela Spaccia secretly doubled their vacation time and sick leave and then bumped them even higher six months later, the city’s onetime financial chief testified Friday.

Before they were ultimately forced from the jobs as a financial scandal swept the small, working-class town in 2010, Rizzo and Spaccia were receiving two paychecks from the city, one for their huge salaries and another for the hours they accumulated toward vacation and sick days.

With the vacation and sick time payouts, former finance director Lourdes Garcia said, Rizzo was actually earning $1.18 million a year and Spaccia $564,000, higher than has been previously reported.

Testifying Friday at Spaccia’s trial on 13 felony counts related to the corruption in the city, Garcia said Rizzo called her into his office in 2007 and said he was considering a special formula on vacation and sick day accrual for Spaccia and himself.

Garcia said that when she brought him a draft, Rizzo told her he didn’t want their titles or names on the document. She revised it so that Rizzo was identified only as 1.1 and Spaccia as 1.3.

The city council approved the arrangement as part of a larger resolution about benefits for non-union employees.

Less than six months later, Garcia testified, Rizzo brought the council another resolution, bumping their days off even higher, giving each of them nearly 33 hours of vacation every two weeks.

Later that year, Garcia testified, Rizzo and Spaccia began getting two paychecks. No other city employees were allowed to cash out their sick and vacation time as they were accumulating it, she said.

Garcia testified under a grant of immunity from the district attorney. She previously testified in the trial of six former Bell council members also charged in the corruption case. All but one were convicted on some charges.

Garcia testified that as the economy faltered in late 2008, the city began to have financial problems because of a decline in sales tax revenue, which was likely to affect raises for Rizzo and other top city officials.

At a meeting of city department heads in December 2008, Police Chief Andreas Probst suggested managers each take a 10% pay cut, Garcia said.

“Don’t worry, guys,” she testified that Rizzo said. “I’ll figure it out. I’ll bring in the revenue.”

That Christmas Eve, Rizzo laid off about 40 part-time employees.

Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 corruption-related felonies earlier this month, and is expected to received a 10- to 12-year sentence.


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