Former Bell City administrator admits ‘We wouldn’t even dare question’ Rizzo
The criminal trial continued Thursday for the six Bell administrators accused of lining their pockets by plundering the city’s coffers.
Lourdes Garcia, the former director of administrative services for the City of Bell began her testimony today. Garcia, who was in charge of payroll for the city, received a grant of immunity in exchange for her cooperation.
She testified that several offices held by the defendants may not have ever existed. According to an organizational chart of city offices that were included as part of the five-year budget plan set forth in 2005, there was never an office of the Community Housing Authority, the Surplus Property Authority or the Solid Waste and Recycling authority.
Deputy District Attorney Edward Miller stated that the officials appointed each other to the commissions that did nothing and often met yearly just to increase their salaries.
Garcia further testified that the city purchased service credit for five year periods on behalf of the defendants and that there were no ordinances or resolutions to her knowledge that would justify such purchases on behalf of council members.
However, on cross-examination Garcia admitted that she was not innocent in this scandal and no longer works for the city. At the time of the 2010 LA Times exposé she was making a salary of around $422,000. Following the scandal “[t]he interim chief administrative officer told me the city needed to move forwards and he would need to let me go,” said Garcia answering questions about her firing.
Garcia also admitted that she drafted erroneous responses to a Public Records Request made by a citizen inquiring into the salaries of city council members. She stated that each council member made only $673 a month for their services, and testified that she knew this wasn’t the whole truth.
When asked why she didn’t ask more questions about the inflated salaries, Garcia responded that “we wouldn’t even dare question” then City Manager Robert Rizzo.
The trial resumes Friday at 1:30 p.m. PST.
Ryan Kerns, Esq., Wild About Trial
Reporting by Talia El-Zataari, Wild About Trial
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