BELL, CA - JULY 26: The City of Bell mayor Oscar Hernandez reacts to calls by residents of the city asking for his resignation during a council meeting on July 26, 2010 in Bell, California. The council members have voted to cut their salaries in response to public outcry at city officials' high salaries. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Oscar Hernandez
Three present and former Bell city leaders facing public corruption charges want the cash-strapped city to pay their legal bills.
Attorneys for Mayor Oscar Hernandez, Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo and former Councilman George Cole have filed court documents in recent weeks saying the city should cover their legal expenses in a suit filed last year by the California attorney general's office. Jacobo and Cole also want Bell to pay their criminal defense costs on charges filed by Los Angeles County prosecutors, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
Rocked by scandals and sky-high salaries, state auditors reported last week that Bell is on the brink of bankruptcy. Lawyers for the defendants say in documents filed last week that their clients did nothing legally wrong and are entitled to have Bell cover the costs.
Charged along with Hernandez, Jacobo and Cole are former City Manager Robert Rizzo, former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, City Councilman George Mirabal, and former council members Luis Artiga and Victor Bello.
The eight were arrested Sept. 21 in connection with charges of misappropriation of public funds. In an effort to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in unwarranted salaries, they are also named in a civil suit alleging fraud, civil conspiracy and waste of public funds.
Rizzo, who is additionally charged with conflict of interest and falsification of public records by an official custodian, has also asked for a court order directing the city to pay his attorneys' fees.