Judge won’t order the city of Bell to pay Rizzo’s legal costs
Jury will decide
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—A judge today refused to order the city of Bell to reimburse its embattled former city manager for his legal costs in defending himself from civil and criminal allegations that he conspired to defraud the municipality out of millions of dollars.
Robert Rizzo is defending himself in a civil case by his former employer and a felony complaint filed by the District Attorney’s Office. He wanted a declaration from Judge Ralph Dau that the city should indemnify him for the money he has spent to hire legal counsel.
But Dau said a jury should decide the issues.
Rizzo is among eight former Bell city officials accused of bilking taxpayers out of about $5.5 million through hefty salaries, benefits and illicit loans of public money.
Rizzo’s lawyer, James Spertus, said after the hearing that it was clear the civil and criminal actions against his client stem from alleged misconduct that occurred during the course of his employment and that the city is bound by a 1996 agreement to reimburse Rizzo for his legal expenses. He said that it is “tragic” that the case will now have to go to trial.
But Deborah Fox, an attorney for the city, said Rizzo’s actions were for his own personal gain and not in conjunction with city business.
Rizzo filed his claim for reimbursement last Oct. 15.
In another action, Dau said the city will have to shore up its own suit against Rizzo if it is to proceed. The allegations include intentional misrepresentation, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and restitution.
Dau gave the city’s lawyers 30 days to file an amended complaint with more details.
BELL - The state attorney general's office today sued eight former and current Bell city officials, accusing them of fraud, civil conspiracy and waste of public funds in an effort to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in unwarranted salaries.
Attorney General Jerry Brown's lawsuit, which names ex-City Manager Robert Rizzo and three current council members, also calls for the reduction of pension benefits for the officials.
BELL - Eight Bell city officials, including former City Manager Robert Rizzo, were arrested today as part of an investigation by the District Attorney's Office into lofty salaries earned by administrators and elected leaders.
"This was calculated greed and theft,'' District Attorney Steve Cooley said at a late-morning news conference.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—The Los Angeles Times won a Pulitzer Prize for public service today for its investigation that uncovered hefty salaries being earned by top officials in the city of Bell and led to criminal charges being filed against eight people.
Los Angeles Times photographer Barbara Davidson also won a Pulitzer for feature photography for her series of photos on the victims of violent gang crime.
BELL - The Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller said today that Bell residents would not get property tax refunds because of overpayments until Bell sends the county $2.9 million, which it is not required to do before Dec. 31.
Wendy Watanabe, the county's auditor-controller, said she wanted to address news media reports "suggesting that Los Angeles County could start issuing refunds 'within the week.'"
Watanabe's office has already gotten calls from Bell property taxpayers asking for refunds.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Five former Bell city officials were convicted today of misappropriating public funds by accepting exorbitant salaries while representing the small municipality, but jurors acquitted them of some charges and exonerated one former councilman altogether.