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Prosecutor: Bell Was 'Cash Cow' To Former Official

Prosecutor: Bell Was 'Cash Cow' To Former Official

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Angela Spaccia and her boss could have retired from the city of Bell with millions of dollars in future benefits, but a prosecutor said Thursday they could not bring themselves to give up their positions in the "cash cow" small city they were bilking.

Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman, in his closing argument at Spaccia's corruption trial, accused her of doing an "audition" for her job as assistant city manager by showing then city manager Robert Rizzo how he could collect 100 percent of his huge salary in retirement benefits.

"That's how she got her foot in the door," the prosecutor said of her hiring in 2003, the beginning of her seven-year tenure in which she and Rizzo saw their salaries soar.

By the time they were fired in 2010, Rizzo was receiving an annual salary and benefits package worth $1.18 million and Spaccia was getting $564,000. Their salaries were higher than that of the president of the United States for running the tiny, blue-collar suburb where many of the 35,000 residents live below the federal poverty line.

"They had worked out a very nice retirement program," said Huntsman. "They didn't need to work. But they didn't want to walk away from this cash cow."

Jurors who heard five weeks of testimony and saw numerous documents were not told that Rizzo has pleaded no contest to 69 corruption charges, removing him as a co-defendant with Spaccia.

Spaccia, who testified in her own defense for seven days, has said she was just following Rizzo's orders and did nothing criminal.

Spaccia's attorney, Harland Braun, was set to give his closing argument later in the day.

Huntsman said the City Council was kept in the dark about the salaries of Rizzo and Spaccia and did not approve them, making them illegal.

He suggested council members didn't question anything because they too were being paid exorbitant amounts for little work. Five of them were convicted in a separate corruption trial.

Spaccia faces 13 counts of misappropriation of public funds, conflict of interest and other charges..

Noting that Spaccia was sometimes tearful on the witness stand when she spoke of her family problems, Huntsman said she demonstrated her guilt.

"If she were innocent, the tears she shed would have been for remorse for what she did," he said. "That didn't happen."

 

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