Guilty in Bell

The verdict is a warning to elected officials in nearby cities

The corruption trial of former Bell council members sends a signal to all officials in neighboring cities: abuses of power are punishable before the law.

The guilty verdict for five council members, who were earning excessive annual salaries of $100,000 for part-time work, leaves a bittersweet taste, since they were acquitted of the majority of the charges.

This case is another example of the differences that exist between popular perception about a trial and what is decided by the jury, which must issue a verdict following very precise legal instructions given by the judge. This won’t be the first or last time this discrepancy will happen.

What we do expect is that the sentence imposed on the former council members for the crimes that they were found guilty of is severe enough to discourage the unlawful ambitions of elected officials in other cities.

This case showed one face of greed, the ways in which elected officials betray the trust placed in them.

At the same time, it helps remind citizens that they must be watchful and that their responsibility is not limited to voting; they must keep an eye on their politicians and demand explanations. Let’s not forget that the scandal in Bell was discovered by a media outlet, the Los Angeles Times. Otherwise, the situation would have continued for a while.

The trial of former Bell administrator, Robert Rizzo, and his assistant, Angela Spaccia, who are seen as having the main responsibility for the corruption in Bell, is still to come. The wheels of justice keep on turning.