Lonely Night for Bell Council Member

Three council members called in sick, one resigned earlier in the day, and another is still in jail

By Jonathan Lloyd
|  Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010  |  Updated 11:22 AM PDT
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The Bell City Council met Monday night for the first time since eight city officials were arrested last month.


The Bell City Council met Monday night for the first time since eight city officials were arrested last month.

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If anyone has a right to complain about his co-workers, it's Lorenzo Velez.

Monday marked the first regularly scheduled City Council meeting in corruption-riddled Bell since eight current and former city officials were charged with looting city funds.

It was a lonely night for Velez -- the only council member who isn't facing criminal charges. He sat alone at the council table and faced a crowd of more than 200 people.

"Due to the lack of a quorum, we won't be able to have our regular meeting today," said Velez, who was making about $8,000 per year as his colleagues raked in about $100,000 per year for their part-time service.

The meeting was canceled when the four council members facing criminal charges didn't show up. One of the four, George Mirabal, was in jail. Another, Luis Artiga, resigned earlier in the day. Mayor Oscar Hernandez and Vice Mayor Teresa Jacobo both called in sick.

"I want to thank you all for coming. I want to applaud you for coming and the civic participation you've already started," Velez said.

But the show must go on. Dozens of people had signed up to speak to the council and Velez decided to let them go ahead, although he told them as the only council member present he couldn't take any action.

Many of them were angry and some blamed interim City Manager Pedro Carrillo for not moving fast enough to restore the city. Residents have discovered in recent months they've been overtaxed and public funds have been mismanaged, misappropriated and have gone to pay inflated salaries for the other four council members and other city administrators.

"You have done nothing," an angry resident, Willie Aguilar, shouted at Carrillo. "You have been nothing but empty promises."

Another speaker, 9-year-old Valerie Jacobo, complained that it upset her to watch her grandparents and parents fight over how high their tax bill was. She asked Velez why that was and he told her there had been corrupt people running her city.

"My mommy taught me better," replied Jacobo, dressed in a Disneyland sweatshirt.

Velez told her: "Good for your mommy."

Later, as she spoke to a reporter, Jacobo pointed to the nameplate in front of the chair where the vice mayor would normally sit and made it clear: "I'm not related to her."

The public comment session lasted about 2 1/2 hours.

Also arrested last month were former City Manager Robert Rizzo, former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia and former council members George Cole and Victor Bello.

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