The corruption case in the city of Bell is coming to an end, with the sentencing of former municipal officials charged with corruption. Closing this chapter will let the city leave behind the scandal to focus on its future.
First, former Council members Victor Bello, George Cole, Oscar Hernández, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal pleaded no contest to two counts of misappropriation of funds in exchange for a maximum prison sentence of four years and returning the money. A day later, it was the turn of the city’s second in command, Angela Spaccia, who was sentenced to almost 12 years in prison for corruption, in addition to restitution of millions of dollars. The city’s chief executive, Robert Rizzo, will be sentenced next week after pleading no contest to several crimes.
These developments end a scandalous period of corruption, during which, through ridiculously high salaries for a small, poor city like Bell, public officials misappropriated more than $10 million in public funds.
The level of corruption found in Bell is a warning for officials in small cities with a similar profile to Bell’s, who are earning exaggerated salaries and taking advantage of people’s lack of interest in their performance. Thanks to this case, people are paying more attention and there are new laws to prevent a repeat.
However, no law or ordinance can replace voters and city residents keeping an eye on what their officials are doing. Bell’s officials, from the city administrator to the chief of police, made the most of the situation without any qualms.
The city of Bell has new officials and an experience that, put to good use, will encourage constituents to closely watch their government officials, like it should happen in a democracy.