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Bell City Hall Stays Open During Trial

LOS ANGELES (CBS) - The city of Bell's interim administrative officer pledges that the doors to City Hall "will remain open," in spite of a judge's order requiring the mayor and two council members to stay away while they await trial on charges that they misappropriated public funds.

Today, Bell's interim chief administrative officer, Pedro Carrillo, issued a statement saying that city officials had been made aware of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Henry J. Hall's order late Wednesday.  It requires Mayor Oscar Hernandez and council members Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal to stay at least 100 yards away from City Hall.

"As the interim CAO, I want to assure Bell residents and merchants that the city of Bell will continue to provide uninterrupted municipal services to  our constituents, as we have done so for the last seven months," Carrillo  said. "The doors to City Hall will remain open and we will continue to conduct the city's business as expected."

The "Bell 8" were arrested Sept. 21 on allegations on allegations that they took part in a scheme that siphoned  $5.5 million in taxpayer money from the city's coffers, primarily by receiving  lofty salaries paid for serving on various boards and commissions, some of which rarely conducted any substantive business.  The members –- who were earning almost $100,000 a year -- significantly slashed their pay, but most balked at calls for their resignations.

During the preliminary hearing, defense attorneys argued in part that the council members were innocent victims who were caught in a witch hunt that began after news broke about the salaries of Bell officials.  On Wednesday, the judge determined Wednesday that there was enough evidence to require Hernandez, Jacobo, Mirabal and former council members Luis Artiga, George Cole and Victor Bello to stand trial.  Bello, who is the only one of the so-called "Bell 8" to remain jailed - - is due back at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse on Friday for a hearing to determine if his $190,000 bail should be lowered.

Deputy District Attorney Edward Miller told reporters late Wednesday that he would ask that the existing bail remain in place.  Along with the restriction on City Hall visits, the judge ordered them not to participate in city business and not to accept any compensation from the city without prior approval from the court.

Meanwhile, former City Administrator Robert Rizzo and former Assistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia, are awaiting a hearing set to begin Tuesday to determine if they will have to stand trial on charges that they  misappropriated public funds.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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