Public corruption cases against eight former Bell city officials will feature email transcripts where the suspects talked about being "pigs" but not "hogs". One Defense Attorney says it's not like it sounds.
Prosecutors filed court papers Monday citing e-mails in which Bell's former assistant city manager wrote that "we have crafted our agreements carefully so we do not draw attention to our pay" and another saying "we will all get fat together."
In the court filing, Deputy District Attorneys Sean Hassett and Juliet Schmidt argued there is "substantial evidence" that former city manager Robert Rizzo and former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia "intentionally concealed their actions that were designed to grant themselves exorbitant pay."
The filing documents e-mails sent in 2009 by Spaccia to Randy Adams as the city was preparing to hire him as its police chief.
"The word pay period is used and not defined in order to protect you from someone taking the time to add up your salary," Spaccia wrote in one e- mail cited in the prosecution's filing.
The prosecutors said Adams wrote in a separate e-mail, "I am looking forward to seeing you and taking all of Bell's money?! Okay ... just a share of it," and that Spaccia responded, "LOL ... well you can take your share of the pie ... just like us. We will all get fat together."
"Bob has an expression he likes to use on occasion ... pigs get fat ... hogs get slaughtered!!! So as long as we're not hogs ... all is well," the document quotes Spaccia as e-mailing.
Spaccia's attorney Russell Petti said prosecutors took her words out of context. Adams was pressing Spaccia for an even more generous salary and compensation package, and she was trying to tell him tactfully that he was already being offered plenty, Petti said.
"Obviously I wish she'd worded it differently, and I'm sure she wishes she'd worded it differently, but the point of the whole exercise was to reduce the compensation package," he said.
In telling Adams how pay agreements were written to keep people from learning salaries, Spaccia was relaying to Adams a policy Rizzo had established years before she came to work for Bell, Petti said.
Rizzo, 57, and Spaccia, 52, are awaiting a hearing -- which could begin this week -- to determine if there is enough evidence to require them to stand trial on felony charges alleging they misappropriated public funds.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Henry G. Hall is expected to first determine if six current and former Bell City Council members should proceed to trial on similar charges. The preliminary phase will continue Tuesday.
Last week, the only current City Council member not criminally charged as a result of the public corruption probe testified that Rizzo virtually ruled the small blue-collar city in southeast Los Angeles County.
"Everything had to go through" Rizzo, Lorenzo Velez testified last Tuesday during the preliminary hearing for Mayor Oscar Hernandez, 63; Vice Mayor Teresa Jacobo, 53; Councilman George Mirabal, 61, and former councilmen Luis Artiga, who turns 50 on Tuesday; George Cole, 61; and Victor Bello, 52.
After finishing the preliminary hearing for the six defendants, Hall is expected to hear evidence against Rizzo and Spaccia, as well as additional charges against Hernandez and Artiga.
Rizzo is also charged with conflict of interest and misappropriation of records in a separate case that is expected to be heard last and to take about a day.
The eight were arrested Sept. 21 on allegations that they bilked taxpayers out of roughly $5.5 million through hefty salaries, benefits and illicit loans of public money.
Rizzo and other top city officials stepped down last July after the salary scandal broke.
The City Council members, who were earning almost $100,000 a year, significantly slashed their pay, but most balked at calls for their resignations. Artiga announced last October that he was leaving his post, saying, "it's in the best interest for the city of Bell that I resign."
Lawyers for the six current and former Bell City Council members said their clients rejected plea deals that would have brought them two-year prison terms in exchange for admitting guilt and paying back all the money they allegedly looted from the city treasury.