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Bell city manager blamed for pay scam

Feb. 20, 2013 at 5:26 PM

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Former Bell, Calif., City Council members on trial for misappropriating funds say the city manager duped them into thinking their actions were legal.

Witnesses and defense attorneys have repeatedly pointed fingers at Robert Rizzo during the four-week trial of six former council members, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

Jurors were expected to begin deliberations of the council members' fates this week. Rizzo's trial may be months away.

Rizzo was described during the trial as a micro-manager and controlling administrator who was feared by the council.

City Clerk Rebecca Valdez testified that Rizzo "had to be the first to find out" about important events in the personal lives of city staff.

Lourdes Garcia, the city's former director of administrative services, said she believed Rizzo purposely drafted resolutions that were too complex for council members to understand.

George Cole, one of the council members who testified, said Rizzo became angered when Cole told him he wasn't going to accept his last year of salary, telling the councilman he would have to quit if he didn't take it.

Rizzo's attorney, James Spertus, accused council members of "overstating Mr. Rizzo's conduct."

Spertus said he is pushing for a change of venue for his client. He expected Rizzo's trial to begin in the fall.

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