LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Randy Adams took the stand Wednesday and testified he never questioned the legality of the $457,000 salary he was offered to head the police department of the tiny city of Bell.
Testifying as a defense witness in the trial of Angela Spaccia, Bell’s former assistant city administrator, Adams told jurors that although the offered salary – higher than the Los Angeles police chief’s compensation – surprised him, “everyone was telling me that [Robert Rizzo] had the authority.”
Adams was about to retire as the chief of the Glendale Police Department in 2009 when Spaccia, a longtime friend, called to say that her boss, Rizzo, “wanted to hire me to come to the city of Bell,” he said.
“’It would take all the money the city of Bell has to hire me,’” Adams said he jokingly told Spaccia on that call.
Adams testified he became suspicious when Spaccia made it clear that Rizzo was willing to pay “what was necessary” to bring him to the small, blue-collar Los Angeles municipality. Because there had been prior political corruption scandals in the region, Adams testified he called a Los Angeles prosecutor to ask whether Bell was currently involved in any such cases.
“I told him they were making me an unbelievable offer to come down there, including lifetime medical,” Adams said.
The deputy district attorney called back the next day, telling Adams that as far as he knew, Bell was clean, he said.
In April 2009, Adams testified he began negotiating salary and benefits with Rizzo, eventually accepting an offer.
“I was surprised that a little city like this could afford to hire me,” Adams said.
Charges were filed in the case the next year, but Adams was not named as a defendant.
Spaccia, 55, who was Rizzo’s second-in-command, is accused of 13 corruption-related felonies.
Rizzo — who was charged along with Spaccia — pleaded no contest to 69 felony counts, including misappropriation of public funds, less than a week before their trial was set to begin.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Max Huntsman said previously that Spaccia was making a base salary of $370,000 that ballooned to $564,000 annually with vacation and sick pay by 2010, while Rizzo was taking in more than $1 million a year.
Huntsman told the panel at the start of the trial that the contracts for Spaccia and Rizzo were not publicly approved, and that their pay was based on a carefully disguised “formula.”
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