Crime & Justice

LA judge postpones Bell officials' arraigment

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A Los Angeles judge allowed three Bell city officials to post bail. But she delayed a decision on bail for five other officials – including the mayor and former city manager. All face corruption charges. Formal arraignment, meantime, was postponed until next month.

Sheriff’s deputies led the once powerful Bell officials into the courtroom in handcuffs and jail clothing – six men and two women accused of bilking taxpayers out of millions of dollars. That’s the district attorney’s version. Attorney Stanley Friedman, who represents Mayor Oscar Hernandez, said not so.

T543-23 Stanley Friedman: “There was transparency in the system and at least as to my clients they were paid monies that were authorized by the city and pursuant to contract.” TRT:08

Outside the courthouse, Friedman, who also represents former city councilman Victor Bello, said his clients did not pay themselves for “phantom” meetings as prosecutors allege. Instead, he said, they did a lot of good work for Bell.

“Both of my clients spent considerable amount of time on behalf of the city and were not directly compensated for that," said Friedman, "so in terms of their overall compensation package, it was actually quite reasonable.”

That pay was nearly $100,000 a year for their part-time work in the working class city.

A state controller’s audit echoed the criminal charges. It said city officials led by former city manager Robert Rizzo inflated their salaries, levied illegal taxes and mismanaged $50 million in bonds.