LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Angela Spaccia, the former assistant city administrator for the city of Bell, testified Tuesday it was her former boss, Robert Rizzo, who signed off on all hiring and firing decisions, including contracting a company that paid her son to complete a study.
Spaccia took the stand for a third day in her public corruption trial on 13 felony charges, including misappropriation of public funds. According to prosecutors, in 2010 Spaccia made a base salary of $370,000 that totaled $567,000 annually with vacation and sick pay.
Once again the figure of Rizzo, the onetime city manager of who made nearly $2 million in his last two years in the post, was at the center of Spaccia’s testimony.
Spaccia, 55, was hired in 2002 by then-city manager Robert 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.
In testimony last week, Spaccia said her growing salary was an “incentive not to leave,” from Rizzo and insisted she did not instigate the pay increases. Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 felonies in October.
Among the charges Spaccia faces is conflict of interest stemming from the contracting of a company in which her son had a financial stake. Spaccia testified Tuesday that Rizzo ordered a study of voters in the city of Bell and awarded a contract to the company, which paid her son for his work, and said it was Rizzo who signed off on the agreement.
A similar argument was made in the face of charges that Spaccia negotiated and signed off on the contract for Randy Adams, who was hired as Bell’s police chief for a yearly salary of $457,000.
Adams, a longtime Spaccia friend, testified last week that she called him in 2009 to say Rizzo wanted to hire him as police chief. Adams, who has not been charged with wrongdoing, was about to retire as the chief of the Glendale Police Department and reportedly joked to Spaccia on the call that “it would take all the money in the city of Bell” to hire him.
He also testified he consulted a Los Angeles deputy district attorney when he realized that Rizzo was willing to pay “what was necessary,” and was told Bell was not under investigation for political corruption. He added he was “surprised that a little city like this could afford to hire me.”
On the stand, Spaccia testified about a closed-door session with the City Council in which the subject of hiring of Adams was discussed with the Bell City Council. Unbeknownst to the council, Adams had already been hired, but two members were unhappy with the deal and wanted someone else.
According to Spaccia, the city attorney told the council members: “Rizzo has the power to make these decisions. If you want to take away the power from him you can, but not now. He has the power to hire and fire whoever he wants.”
Spaccia’s attorney, Harland Braun, originally said his client would take the stand for one day of questioning, but she has remained on the stand for three days. It was not immediately known if the prosecution’s questioning would begin Wednesday.