Preliminary hearing for 'Bell Eight' public officials begins

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File photo: (L-R) City of Bell council members Lorenzo Velez, vice mayor Teresa Jacobo, mayor Oscar Hernandez, Councilman George Mirabel and Councilman Luis Artiga listen to residents asking them to resign during a council meeting on July 26, 2010 in Bell, California.

Today marks the start of the preliminary hearing for the “Bell Eight” – the eight former Bell city officials accused of looting the city treasury.

L.A. County prosecutors will spend this week convincing a judge that they have enough evidence to try the Bell Eight for misappropriation of public funds. They’ll concentrate first on Mayor Oscar Hernandez, Vice-Mayor Teresa Jacobo, Councilman George Mirabel and three former city councilmen. Then they’ll show what they have against former city manager Robert Rizzo and former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia.

What Bell doesn’t have is a functioning city council. With three members facing charges and one seat vacant, Councilman Lorenzo Velez is the only elected official on the job.

Hernandez, Jacobo and Mirabel could show up for meetings – but they haven’t for months. Velez says he’s called them, but they won’t answer.

Interim city administrator Pedro Carrillo wants the council to convene tonight so it can offer guidance on needed budget cuts. But there might not be any guidance until Bell voters elect a new council next month.

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