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June 24, 2017

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8 Bell officials to face judge for corruption

Rizzo, Spaccia and former Police Chief Randy Adams, who was making US$457,000 a year, resigned and the council members reduced their salaries to about US$8,000 following the disclosures. Adams was not arrested.

Cooley said there was no evidence the former police chief illegally obtained his US$457,000 salary. The figure was US$150,000 more than the Los Angeles chief of police gets paid.

"Being paid excessive salaries is not a crime," Cooley said. "Illegally obtaining those salaries is a crime."

Cooley said his investigators have pored over more than 60,000 pages of documents and more people could be arrested.

His office began investigating last March, four months before the Los Angeles Times reported the salaries, which brought national attention to the small city of 40,000 people.

Cooley praised the Times, saying the scandal occurred in part because residents and much of the news media paid little attention to what was happening at Bell City Hall until the story broke.

Since the scandal broke, public officials, city managers and others have said the situation in Bell showed why people must insist that elected officials communicate honestly and openly with them.

"One of the problems that was obvious with Bell was the lack of transparency and the lack of involvement on the part of the public," Dave Mora, West Coast regional director of the International City/County Management Association, said recently.

Bell's interim chief administrative officer Pedro Carrillo said the arrests marked a sad day for the city.

"It is clear that Rizzo and Spaccia were at the root of the cancer that has afflicted the city," he said.

Interim City Attorney Jamie Casso said he expected Bell could carry on business as usual, adding that Carrillo and Lorenzo Velez - the one council member who wasn't arrested - were meeting regularly. Velez was not taking a high salary.

The district attorney's office is one of several agencies investigating Bell.

Last week, Attorney General Jerry Brown sued eight current and former officials of Bell, accusing them of defrauding taxpayers by granting themselves salaries he said were far higher than warranted for the jobs they were doing.

Artiga was not named in the lawsuit but Adams was.

Earlier this month Bell officials confirmed the city was also the target of a racial profiling investigation by the federal government for allegedly targeting young Hispanic drivers for traffic stops to raise revenue.

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