More accusations surface in hearing for former Bell city manager Rizzo

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Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo listens to proceedings during his preliminary hearing on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court Tuesday morning to answer more corruption charges against him.

Before the final preliminary hearing began at the criminal courts building in downtown Los Angeles, Rizzo’s defense attorney requested that the judge remove electronic media from the courtroom over concerns that coverage could prejudice the proceedings. The judge shared the defense’s apprehension, but he determined that coverage was necessary because “the case is of grave public concern.”

In this phase of the hearing, Rizzo faces two felony counts that include conflict of interest and misappropriation of public funds.

The prosecution called its first witness – a business owner who served as Bell’s privately-contracted planning director. He and Rizzo owned racehorses together.

A state audit reportedly indicates that since the mid-1990s the city of Bell paid at least $10 million to firms the witness owned – even after contracts had expired.

The prosecution will call several more witnesses including some Bell employees who have already testified. Last week, the judge ordered Rizzo and other city leaders to stand trial on dozens of felony charges.

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