While the economic recession was raging on for the ordinary citizen, the city manager of the little California municipality of Bell, Robert Rizzo, had a salary of $787,000, in 2010.
Considering at the time the scandal was exposed, the current U.S. President had a base salary of $400,000, and along with perks something about $550,000 per year, the then Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, termed the case a “corruption on steroids.”
Law enforcement had arrested ex-Mayor Oscar Hernandez and seven of his cronies including the city manager and his assistant in September 2010 for bilking taxpayers of millions through excessive salaries, illicit loans of public money and various questionable benefits.
While city manager Robert Rizo and his former assistant Angela Spaccia are on a separate trial on public corruption-related charges, the rest six of those accused of public corruption, consisting largely of City Councilmen and the Mayor were tried together.
All six former city officials on trial in the instant case adorned various municipal boards, which rarely even met to conduct business, according to prosecutors. But defense lawyers argued that the accusations were wrong, for the accused had worked hard to earn their salaries.
The jury on the case acquitted only one of the accused, former Councilman Luis Artiga, of all 12 counts against him. Ortega started weeping when Judge Kathleen Kennedy informed him that he was free.
However, things weren’t so sweet for the rest.
Following two weeks of intense scrutiny of matters, the jury found ex-Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former City Council members Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal guilty of five felony counts each for misappropriation of public funds. Former Councilman George Cole was found guilty on two counts another former Councilman Victor Bellow was convicted on four counts.