Bell, Calif. officials plead not guilty to corruption charges

Despite what appear to be widespread and damning allegations of corruption, city officials in Bell, Calif. are pleading not guilty:

Attorney General Jerry Brown’s move came as eight current and former Bell officials, including its former city manager, who was paid a salary of nearly $800,000, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to public corruption charges.

The eight defendants, arrested on September 21, are collectively accused of bilking taxpayers in the blue-collar city of 40,000 out of roughly $5.5 million through excessive salaries, benefits and illicit loans of public money.

They were charged in nearly two dozen counts of misappropriating public funds, including salaries they received for “phantom” meetings that never occurred. Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley has called the scandal in Bell “corruption on steroids.”

The eight also are named in a civil suit brought by Brown alleging fraud, conspiracy and waste of public funds.

Well, when you’re getting paid over $1.5 million a year as a public servant, you probably have some money stashed away to pay your legal fees.

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