California city ex-manager gets 12 years in prison for corruption

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 16, 2014 2:59 PM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The former city administrator of Bell, California, who came to represent local government corruption when news surfaced of his annual salary of nearly $800,000, was sentenced on Wednesday to 12 years in prison, officials said.

An apologetic Robert Rizzo, 60, who pleaded guilty last year to 69 state criminal counts - from perjury to misappropriation of public funds - also was ordered to pay $8.8 million in restitution to the city, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office.

He will serve the sentence concurrent with a 33-month federal sentence imposed earlier in the week for a tax-fraud scheme designed to conceal part of his large, publicly funded income, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy ruled.

Rizzo went from earning a city-council-approved salary of $300,000 in 2004, to a whopping $800,000 in 2010, when it was revealed how he illegally inflated his salary, prosecutors said. He resigned that year.

The revelations of the inflated salaries for Rizzo and other officials in Bell, a working-class municipality near Los Angeles, fueled statewide debate over public pay.

Rizzo apologized in court on Wednesday.

"I did breach the public confidence," Rizzo said, according to City News Service. "I am very, very sorry, and I apologize for that."

In U.S. District Court, Rizzo on Monday was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and filing a false tax return with the Internal Revenue Service.

Kennedy allowed Rizzo to remain free until he turns himself in to federal prison officials on May 30.

Last week, Rizzo's aide Angela Spaccia was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison after she was convicted in December of 11 felony counts, including misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest for writing her own contracts for the city.

Separately, five former Bell city council members pleaded no contest last week to corruption charges, with sentencing set for June and July.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Gunna Dickson)