Attorneys grill second witness in Bell corruption case

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Al Seib/AFP/Getty Images

Former Bell city employees (left to right) Robert Rizzo, Angela Spaccia, Victor Bello and Oscar Hernandez attend a bail reduction hearing on Sept. 22, 2010 in Los Angeles.

Attorneys grilled Bell city clerk Rebecca Valdez Thursday in the first round of preliminary hearings for the “Bell Eight.”

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Edward Miller asked Valdez about a public records request someone sent her that demanded to know how much Bell paid its City Council members.

Valdez testified that former top chief Robert Rizzo ordered to fudge the numbers in her response and to include only base Council pay – not the high salaries they collected to work on governing committees.

She seemed to choose her words carefully as she described to the prosecutor how Rizzo told her to answer the request.

“They weren’t requesting for the different agencies so just give them Council pay," Valdez said Rizzo instructed.

"But isn’t it true that at this time the Council was getting paid $150 a month?" Miller asked.

Valdez replied yes but when Miller asked where a figure of $673 came from, Valdez said Rizzo came up with it. She said Rizzo documented every councilmember's monthly pay as $673 – although most made 10 times that amount.

Defense attorneys asked the clerk if she thought she was doing the wrong thing by providing false information. She replied that she was simply following orders.

Defense Attorney Ronald Kaye tried to undermine Valdez's credibility as an informed employee when he asked her what the Surplus Property Authority is. Valdez said she didn't know.

Prosecutors say Bell officials used their roles as members of the Surplus Property Authority and other committees to justify their high salaries.

Rizzo, his assistant and six Bell city council members face dozens of felony fraud charges. The prosecution has granted immunity to city clerk Rebecca Valdez.

Testimony in the preliminary hearing picks up Monday.

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