LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The former assistant city administrator for the city of Bell told jurors she was the recipient – not the author – of a series of raises and benefits that sent her annual paycheck skyrocketing to $564,000.
Angela Spaccia took the stand Thursday to defend herself against public corruption charges, testifying that her annual paycheck, which went from about $100,000 in 2003 to the $564,000 she was earning when she was charged with misappropriation of public funds three years ago, was an “incentive not to leave,” from her boss, Robert Rizzo.
Spaccia, 55, was hired in 2002 by then-city manager Rizzo as a “financial consultant” and moved into a permanent position as assistant city administrator the following year, earning a $100,000 annual salary. Each year, Spaccia received a pay bump.
“I was the recipient” of the increases, she said, but “had nothing to do with their creation.”
Spaccia, who was Rizzo’s second-in-command, is being tried on 13 corruption-related felonies. Prosecutors say she was making a base salary of $370,000 that built up to $564,000 annually with vacation and sick pay by 2010, as Rizzo was taking home more than $1 million a year.
Spaccia was questioned by her own attorney initially, telling the jury that Rizzo’s style was “perfect…we should have more employers treating people this way.”
Before Spaccia took the stand, former Bell councilwoman Teresa Jacobo testified that she attended an ethics seminar in 2006 after some city officials were discovered by Rizzo to have used public funds to pay for hair plugs and weight-loss camp.
Jacobo said the seminar took place after then-mayor Oscar Hernandez expensed hair transplants and ex-councilman George Cole charged the city thousands of dollars for attendance at a weight-loss camp.
Jacobo said that when she had questions about city matters, she called Rizzo, but rarely contacted Spaccia.
“Most of the time she wasn’t there when I called,” Jacobo testified, adding that she relied on Rizzo’s analysis of items before the council.
She said that Rizzo became angry if she went to city staff without talking to him first.
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.
(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)