Angela Spaccia, the city's second-in-command, testified she typed out many generous employment contracts, but that it was her boss, Robert Rizzo, who dictated the terms, and it was Lourdes Garcia who headed the city's finance department.
"Our defense basically is she wasn't working with Mr. Rizzo to defraud anyone. The benefits she accepted were legal benefits. If they were illegal, she didn't know it," said Spaccia's attorney, Harland Braun.
Protests erupted when residents learned the actual benefits for top officials: a salary of over $1 million for Rizzo and over $500,000 for Spaccia. For years, citizens had been trying to find out how much they were paying their own city leaders. False numbers were given to them. Asked if she knew anything about falsified records, Spaccia's voice broke as she said, "No, it made me sick to hear it."
She was on the verge of tears again, testifying that Rizzo sent her to help out in neighboring Maywood, where Spaccia felt her life was endangered by criminal gangs.
With all the stress, Spaccia said she considered suicide. Spaccia faces 13 felony counts, including hiding public records and conspiracy to misappropriate funds. The prosecution on Friday introduced a surprise witness.
Covina Police Chief Kim Raney was called by prosecutors to dispute testimony by a defense witness, former Bell Police Chief Randy Adams. Adams testified that his salary was legit at $457,000, but he disclosed a far lower number in a conversation with Raney.
Raney testified that he was told it was $257,000 -- a suggestion that Adams felt he had something to hide.
According to the prosecution, Spaccia told Adams that money matters were kept quiet in Bell.
In an email to Adams that was revealed in the indictment against Spaccia, she wrote: "We have crafted our agreements carefully so we do not draw attention to our pay."
Spaccia testified that she was only a messenger and that Rizzo often kept her in the dark. She said Rizzo told her that under the city charter, he had authority to approve employee agreements without going to the city council, a maneuver she later learned was not true.