Many in Bell had looked forward to the day when a jury would hand down convictions in the City Council corruption trial, but it became clear Wednesday night that restoration of democratic participation remains a work in progress. Patrick Healy reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on March 20, 2013.
Hours after five former Bell councilmembers were convicted in a years-long corruption case, residents criticized the city’s current leadership.
"You’re out of order," Bell Mayor Ali Saleh warned boisterous citizens.
Saleh called a recess, hoping it would calm down the crowd, but when he tried to re-start the meeting, the sergeant at arms from the police department advised against it.
Councilman Nestor Valencia said despite the tension, the emotional meeting is the democratic process at work.
"Democracy is this. People have a voice. Whether we like it or not, the people have a right to be heard," Valencia said.
And as the Bell Community Church welcomed back Luis Artiga – the sole member of the so-called Bell 6 not convicted – just a few blocks away at a City Council meeting, members of the new administration proclaimed Wednesday a day of justice.
Saleh said the city has "progressed a lot since the scandal has happened and will continue to progress."
The city still faces lawsuits and claims from some of the former officials on trial, which will resume on Thursday when jurors return to court in the hopes of resolving still undecided counts.