Teresa Jacobo, one of five former Bell City Council members, was found guilty of stealing public money March 20, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. On Thursday she testified in the trial of former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia.
Update 5:14 p.m. It was a big day for testimony in the public corruption trial of former assistant Bell city manager Angela Spaccia as she took the stand in her own defense. Spaccia faces 13 felony counts in Los Angeles Superior Court, including misappropriation of public funds.
Spaccia looked at jurors often as she spoke about her years working for the city of Bell. She said she was initially impressed at how her boss, city manager Robert Rizzo, operated — and how she said he turned it around from the brink of bankruptcy.
Spaccia also discussed raises she received while working for the city starting in 2002, and benefits that saw her annual paycheck spike from about $100,000 a year to more than half a million dollars — including vacation and sick pay. That's about the time she was charged with misappropriation of public funds three years ago.
Outside court, Spaccia’s attorney Harland Braun said getting a high salary isn't a crime.
“So how many people here have turned down a raise saying I’m not worth it?" Braun said. "Or turned down a new job because you’re going to be paid too much. So that’s really the situation here.”
Spaccia told jurors she felt a little guilty about being paid that much money.
She also testified Rizzo had a philosophy to pay employees well as an incentive to not use the blue-collar city as a stepping stone to work elsewhere.
Spaccia choked up several times, including when her attorney asked about serious car accidents her young son was in and how she planned to take care of her ailing grandparents.
Up next, the prosecution takes its turn to question Spaccia on the witness stand.
— Corey Moore
Update 3:46 p.m. Angela Spaccia, the former assistant city manager of scandal-ridden Los Angeles suburb Bell, has taken the witness stand in her own defense at a corruption trial.
Angela Spaccia told jurors Thursday that she felt Bell was a well-managed city and that its disgraced manager, Robert Rizzo, had brought it back from the brink of bankruptcy.
Spaccia cried as she testified that Rizzo kept her on the payroll when she had to care for an aging parent and an injured son.
Spaccia has pleaded not guilty to 13 counts, including misappropriation of funds. Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 charges last month.
Update 2:27 p.m. Former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia has taken the stand in her own defense in the Bell city corruption case.
We'll be updating as we learn more.
1:50 p.m. Ex-councilwoman testifies at Bell corruption trial
A former city councilwoman convicted of misappropriation of public funds says she had virtually no interaction with defendant Angela Spaccia in the notorious Bell city corruption case.
Defense witness Teresa Jacobo told jurors she seldom interacted with Spaccia when they worked for the city and could not recall ever asking her about city finances.
Jacobo said she knew that when Spaccia first started with Bell, she was a consultant who assisted in the finance department and that she later moved to the city manager’s office.
Jacobo offered a prelude to Spaccia's planned testimony. She said she took all directions from now disgraced City Manager Robert Rizzo and no one questioned his authority. Spaccia was the assistant city manager.
Jacobo also discussed the high salaries she and other officials made. She recalled voting on pay increases for — as she described — the entire staff and employees for the city of Bell.
On cross-examination by the prosecutor, Jacobo said she couldn't remember details of decisions made by the council in closed sessions and only found out Rizzo was making close to $1 million a year when she read it in the newspaper.
The prosecution aggressively questioned Jacobo about the ethics training she received and how some members on the council spent taxpayer money on hair plugs and weight loss camp.
Jacobo said she didn't know taxpayer money was being used for those things.
She was expected to continue testifying in the afternoon.