Clerk says she was ordered to fudge papers

March 4, 2011 at 10:53 AM

BELL, Calif., March 4 (UPI) -- Bell, Calif., City Clerk Rebecca Valdez says former city manager Robert Rizzo ordered her to doctor his employee contracts.

Valdez, who received two Rizzo-authorized loans totaling nearly $50,000, told a hearing Thursday she put the employment contracts in a stack of standard resolutions to be signed by the mayor after each council session, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Times broke the story about Bell, whose top officials earned large salaries, including Rizzo, who was paid nearly $800,000 annually as city manager. Bell's population is about 40,000. The town's police chief earned about $450,000 annually.

Rizzo faces a variety of charges, including misappropriation of funds, falsification of records and conflict of interest. He is one of eight former Bell officials indicted on charges they looted city coffers.

Valdez said Rizzo's 2008 employment contracts were never signed by then-Mayor George Mirabal, and Rizzo allegedly ordered her to get Mayor Oscar Hernandez to sign them.

Valdez testified Hernandez signed the documents with only a cursory reading.

"At that time, I was under a lot of pressure and I was scared," Valdez testified.

Deputy District Attorney Sean Hassett said the contracts "were merely created as a facade so they could use them to fool future Public Records Act requests."

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