November 16, 2013

The Bell Corruption Scandal: Altered Official Documents

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 7:03 am

pile-of-cashThe corruption scandal involving the city of Bell, California, Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo and his chief deputy, Angela Spaccia, gets dirtier and dirtier.

During Friday’s testimony, Deputy District Attorney Sean Hassett forced Spaccia to acknowledge that a 2006 resolution approved by the City Council had been illegally altered (switched) so the wording they signed was different from the wording of the resolution in their council packets.   What was in the Council packet and what the Council believed they were signing was, in fact, different from what they actually did sign.   Someone on the City staff, someone obviously trusted by the Council members, had altered the documents, public records.

The result was that the Council gave Rizzo more power and authority than had been intended.  It allowed Rizzo to approve lucrative contracts with City employees without Council approval.

Fortunately, nothing like that could ever happen in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  Our Council diligently reads every document in its packet.  They compare word-for-word what their packet contains with what our City Clerk puts in front of them.  Our City Finance Director and City Attorney do the same.   Everyone’s paying attention, so we’re safe, right?  Two words:  Sheryl Carroll.

November 19, 2013

Bell Corruption: Tightening the Coeur d’Alene Connection

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 1:12 pm


Last Saturday’s OpenCdA post titled Coeur d’Alene’s Connection to the Corruption in Bell asked why Angela Spaccia was interested in buying some very expensive property in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  More specifically, we wanted to know what Spaccia’s connection was and is to Coeur d’Alene.

Today, we have a much better idea. (more…)

November 11, 2013

City of Bell’s Auditors Disciplined

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 12:06 pm

pile-of-cashOpenCdA has written several posts about the alleged corruption of city officials in Bell, California.

Some of the nagging questions are, “Didn’t the State require independent audits of Bell’s books?  If so, why didn’t the auditors question such things as the  ‘secret formula the public could never find out’ ?  Since the public ultimately pays for the City’s audit, isn’t the public entitled to a diligent independent audit rather than one designed by the alleged crooks to conceal financial mismanagement?”

To get an answer, OpenCdA contacted Jeff Gottlieb, one of the Los Angeles Times’ two principal reporters covering the Bell scandal story.  Mr.  Gottlieb had, in fact, written an article that at least partly answered the nagging questions.  His article was published in the LA Times online on June 2, 2012, and headlined California disciplines accounting firm that missed Bell irregularities.

Apparently the California  Board of Accountancy takes is mission seriously.

ADDENDUM on 11-18/2013:  LA Times reporter Jeff Gottlieb’s article linked above was preceded by one headlined Audits of Bell were ‘rubber-stamp,’ state Controller says.  The earlier article was published by the LA Times online on December 22, 2010, and included these indictments of the City of Bell’s independent auditors, Mayer Hoffman McCann (MHM):

“The long-awaited report is being closely watched because Mayer Hoffman McCann audits the books of dozens of government agencies in California and has 30 offices nationwide.”

“The controller’s office found that MHM failed to comply with 13 of 17 “fieldwork auditing standards” when reviewing Bell’s books in the 2008-09 fiscal year. The firm focused mostly on comparing financial numbers year to year rather than looking at potential for inappropriate or illegal activities, the controller’s report said.”



October 23, 2013

Bell Update

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 2:48 pm

pile-of-cashRemember OpenCdA’s post on February 1, 2013, about the public corruption  scandal in Bell, California?

Well, earlier this month the former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo agreed to plead no contest to several of the charges against him in return for testifying against his former Assistant City Administrator, Angela Spaccia.  It’s reported in today’s LA Times article headlined Huge Bell salaries based on “secret formula”, prosecutor tells jury.

The article today was brief, and the most interesting part of it may have been in the last three paragraphs which reported emails exchanged between Spaccia and Bell’s former police chief Randy Adams.

As I was reading the numerous LA Times articles covering the Bell scandal, I couldn’t help wondering why the accounting firm that conducted the City of Bell’s annual audit didn’t question the obviously grossly inflated salaries and the “secret formula” used to calculate them.

I was also disgusted but totally unsurprised at the former Bell Police Chief’s emails.  One of my college professors at WSU told me 40 years ago:  “The only difference between cops and crooks is that cops have badges and the authority of law.”

September 10, 2016

Exceptional Police Work

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 12:13 pm

irvine-pd-patchAt a time when citizens throughout the United States are being propagandized by various media including the skews media to ridicule and deride law enforcement officers, it was not only refreshing but also inspiring to see the Los Angeles Times newspaper run its six-part series entitled ‘FRAMED – She was the PTA mom everybody knew.  Who would want to harm her?

The series highlights the exceptional and insightful work of the Irvine, California, Police Department.  It is worth noting that the Irvine officer who was first assigned the call was an experienced police officer, not a rookie.  The article rightly raises the question:  Would the outcome of this case have been different if a less experienced and less patient patrol officer had been the first to respond?

The series was written by LA Times staff writer Christopher Goffard.  Goffard’s bio states, “He shared in the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for the paper’s Bell coverage …”  Attentive readers may recall the Kootenai County connection to the Bell scandal which the LA Times reported and for which it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

The entire six-part series can easily be read in half an hour.  It’s worth the time.

January 10, 2015

“They Just Didn’t Do It”

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 4:37 pm

casewatchOpenCdA applauds Athol’s newly-installed Mayor Darla Kuhman for her candor in trying to right the city’s finances after former City Clerk Sally Hansen was charged in federal court with stealing approximately $400,000 from the city during her five years of employment. Hansen was also faces 15 counts of wire fraud.

Unfortunately for Mayor Kuhman and the citizens of Athol, the Idaho County Risk Management Program (ICRMP) has informed the City that ICRMP intends to deny the City’s insurance claim to recover much of the loss, because the City had failed to conduct the statutorily-required audits during at least part of the loss period.  That law clearly states, “It shall be the duty of the council in every city to cause to be made a full and complete audit of the financial statements of such city as required in section 67-450B, Idaho Code.”  But as Mayor Kuhman was quoted saying in this morning’s Press article, referring to the required audits, “They just didn’t do it.”

February 8, 2016

One Honest Man Left Standing …

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 11:59 am

crystalcityWhat would happen if the FBI swooped into a town and arrested the mayor, the city attorney,  and all but one member of the city council?

That’s the question Crystal City, Texas, city councilman Joel Barajas is going to have to answer.  He’s the one man left on the city council after the FBI arrested the city’s mayor, mayor pro tem, the city attorney, and the rest of the council on corruption or human smuggling charges.

Here’s a link to the Washington Post article headlined FBI arrests nearly all of the top officials of Crystal City, Tex.   The information about the city attorney has a Bell-like ring to it.

However, the federal indictment does have some useful information for other cities whose officials may be corruptly inclined.  This is a very plain-language indictment.  One need not be an attorney to understand the federal jurisdiction, the object of the conspiracy, or the crimes alleged.

You can’t make this stuff up.

December 10, 2014

Special Prosecutor – The Time Has Come

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 7:16 am

Foster parents arrestedCOE-3-RMargin copyOpenCdA believes that it is time for a special prosecuting attorney from far beyond Kootenai County to investigate the administration and management of Coeur d’Alene Airport (COE).  But we also believe that any prosecutor should have the courage and horsepower to go where the evidence leads him (or her), even if it goes beyond the borders of the airport to the County Administration Building or the Public Safety Building.

As we have reported in several preceding OpenCdA posts, the firing of longtime airport manager Greg Delavan prompted an outpouring of support for him from local aircraft owners and operators as well as from local businesses who see COE as playing an important role in the region’s economy.  His loyal supporters were often equally outspoken in opposition to the two Kootenai County Commissioners (Green and Tondee) who decided in an illegal meeting to fire him.

Constrained by several factors, Commissioners Green and Tondee were unable to publicly disclose exactly what led to Delavan’s firing.   Unfortunately, they didn’t help clarify the issue when they admitted making the decision to fire him in an executive session board meeting, a flagrant violation of Idaho’s Open Meeting Law.  As a result, the interested public was left with the impression that there may have been no valid reason for Delavan’s firing.

And then this article headlined Audit reveals bad billing appeared in the local skewspaper, the Coeur d’Alene Press on November 14, 2014.   The article suggested there may have been valid reasons for firing Delavan.  Online comments appended to some of the skewspaper’s articles reporting Delavan’s firing reinforced that suggestion. (more…)

April 16, 2014

Boss Hog to the Pen …

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 10:59 am

rizzoAccording to Angela Spaccia, Robert Rizzo’s cohort in the Bell corruption scandal, Rizzo had a saying:

“Pigs get Fat … Hogs get slaughtered!!! So long as we’re not Hogs … all is well!!”

Today, California Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy told Hog Rizzo that all was not well.  She sentenced him to serve 12 years in state prison for his part in the Bell corruption scandal.  He will be allowed to serve the state’s sentence concurrently with his 33-month federal sentence on tax-related charges.

The details of today’s sentencing are in LA Times reporter Jeff Gottlieb’s online story headlined Rizzo gets 12 years in prison, marking end to scandal that rocked Bell.

While Rizzo’s sentencing on federal and state charges and Angela Spaccia’s sentencing on state charges do appear to end the state action, there remains the possibility of federal charges against Angela Spaccia.  As OpenCdA has noted in several earlier posts, Angela (Sheffield) Spaccia served as Kootenai County, Idaho’s Finance Director prior to going to Bell.

April 15, 2014

Just Down the Street…

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 12:19 pm

CudahyJust down the street (that would be Atlantic Avenue) from scandal-ridden Bell, California, is the city of Cudahy (pronounced “cudda’-hee” or “cudda’-hay”).  In fact Bell is Cudahy’s next-door neighbor to the north.  It appears that Cudahy and Bell share more than just a border.

In an online story dated April 15, 2014, and headlined State accuses small city Cudahy of large spending irregularities,  Los Angeles Times reporters Jeff Gottlieb and Stevel Marble reveal that California State Controller John Chiang today released the state’s City of Cudahy – Review Report – Administrative and Internal Accounting Controls for the period July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2012.  (Note:  Times reporter Gottlieb updated this story and added details in a later one headlined Audit faults Cudahy as government in chaos.)

The essence of the state’s Review Report can be summed up in the first sentence of the Conclusions section:  “We found the City of Cudahy’s administrative and internal accounting control deficiencies to be serious and pervasive.  As a result, the potential for fraud, waste, and abuse is very high.” (more…)

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