Skip to main content

California city official pleads not guilty to corruption charges

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Robert Rizzo, one of 8 accused officials, was making nearly $800,000 annually
  • Arraignment was originally set for September, but was delayed
  • Bell is a small city in Southern California; the median income is less than $35,000

Los Angeles, California -- The former city manager of Bell, California, Robert Rizzo, pleaded not guilty to corruption charges at an arraignment Thursday morning.

Eight former or current officials who have been accused of stealing city funds were scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.

The original arraignment had been scheduled for September, but was postponed after a defense attorney asked for more time.

The officials are accused of misappropriating more than $5.5 million, including being paid for phantom meetings, authorities have said.

Rizzo, who made nearly $800,000 a year, is charged with 53 counts of misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest. Among the allegations are that he wrote his own employment contracts which they were never approved by the city council, and that he gave out nearly $2 million in unauthorized loans to himself and other city officials, prosecutors said.

Rizzo and several other city officials resigned after media reports disclosed their salaries.

Bell, in southeast Los Angeles County, had 36,624 residents as of the 2000 census. The median annual income is less than $35,000.