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Bell Doesn't Have To Pay Mayor's Attorney's Fees To Defend Fraud Charges

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A judge ruled Monday that the city of Bell does not have to pay Mayor Oscar Hernandez an interim award of attorneys' fees as he defends himself against fraud charges.


KNX 1070's Ron Kilgore Reports

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph R. Kalin said Hernandez previously filed a cross-complaint against the city asking for reimbursement of his expenses. The judge said issuing an interim award now would be tantamount to saying the mayor had proven his case.

Hernandez and the others named in the civil suit are alleged to have committed fraud, engaged in a civil conspiracy and wasted public funds in an effort to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in unwarranted salaries.

The Attorney General's Office's lawsuit, filed Sept. 15, also calls for the reduction of pension benefits for the officials. The cross-complaint is related to that action.

Hernandez's lawyer, Stanley L. Friedman, said the fees sought involved those incurred by Hernandez in September, October and November, plus future fees. He said the amount sought was filed under seal because of attorney-client privilege.

Hernandez sought the fees because the state chose to sue him in his official capacity as a Bell public official, Friedman said.

James Casso, Bell's interim city attorney, argued Hernandez should have filed a claim first to allow the City Council to approve or deny it.

Other current and former Bell officials also asking for attorneys' fees are Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo, former City Manager Robert Rizzo and ex-Councilman George Cole.

(©2010 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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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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