LOS ANGELES, Calif.--A judge today refused to order the city of Bell to reimburse its embattled former city manager for his legal costs in defending himself from civil and criminal allegations that he conspired to defraud the municipality out of millions of dollars.
Robert Rizzo is defending himself in a civil case by his former employer and a felony complaint filed by the District Attorney's Office. He wanted a declaration from Judge Ralph Dau that the city should indemnify him for the money he has spent to hire legal counsel.
But Dau said a jury should decide the issues.
Rizzo is among eight former Bell city officials accused of bilking taxpayers out of about $5.5 million through hefty salaries, benefits and illicit loans of public money.
Rizzo's lawyer, James Spertus, said after the hearing that it was clear the civil and criminal actions against his client stem from alleged misconduct that occurred during the course of his employment and that the city is bound by a 1996 agreement to reimburse Rizzo for his legal expenses. He said that it is "tragic" that the case will now have to go to trial.
But Deborah Fox, an attorney for the city, said Rizzo's actions were for his own personal gain and not in conjunction with city business.
Rizzo filed his claim for reimbursement last Oct. 15.
In another action, Dau said the city will have to shore up its own suit against Rizzo if it is to proceed. The allegations include intentional misrepresentation, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and restitution.
Dau gave the city's lawyers 30 days to file an amended complaint with more details.