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Bell corruption trial: Rizzo email revealed

Former Bell administrator Angela Spaccia took the stand as the defense showed a new email and phone call to the jury.
November 12, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Testimony continued Tuesday in the city of Bell corruption trial. Former city administrator Angela Spaccia is charged with misappropriation of public funds. She took the stand as the defense showed a new email and phone call to the jury.

Spaccia has testified for years that she supported her boss, Robert Rizzo. To her, there was every indication that he had the authority to do what he was doing. But then things changed. Spaccia told the jury that in later years she wanted to become a whistleblower.

Fighting back, Spaccia rejected allegations she was a corrupt assistant conspiring with her boss, Robert Rizzo.

Spaccia told the jury Tuesday that she uncovered questionable practices, asked questions and tried to alert the district attorney.

She said it happened months before the findings of the D.A.'s public integrity unit were made public, sparking a resident revolt against city leaders.

Spaccia says she questioned Rizzo about practices at the housing authority. His response, she says, was punishment. Rizzo sent her to fill an interim position in neighboring Maywood.

Spaccia says she tried at that time in 2010 to talk to district attorney investigators seven different times, according to phone records presented by the defense. She recorded one call, and the jury heard it in court Tuesday.

In part it says: "If there are any issues that need to be resolved I would love to be a part of that process. I would really love to help the city get past it."

Spaccia's message did not mention Bell. Her explanation to the jury was that she thought investigators would call back faster if they thought she had something new on Maywood. Spaccia testified that the D.A. investigators did not respond.

Multiple counts against Spaccia center on the hiring of police chief Randy Adams for allegedly hiding his $450,000 annual salary. Some council members contested Adams's hiring.

Spaccia read from a newly uncovered email Rizzo had sent to the city attorney, Ed Lee, which appears to show Rizzo's iron grip on city actions.

About hiring Adams: "The city council by resolution gave me authorization to execute any and all contracts ... there is no need to discuss it unless they want to discuss my dismissal first."

Rizzo went on to admonish those who questioned him. His email describes earlier corruption in the police department, that there was "a whorehouse on Florence where half the force would get freebies. Bell is the only place that has a good reputation now. The last part is to fix the P.D. It has taken me 17 years for me to get this far," writes Rizzo. "Will you help me by being part of the solution?"

Spacccia returns to the stand Wednesday. The prosecution will get its chance to cross-examine her either Wednesday or Thursday.

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