Thursday, October 31, 2013

School attorney firm Best Best & Krieger sued for in City of Bell corruption: is similar corruption is going on in our schools?

Isn't this just business as usual taken to an extreme? The cronyism that makes this sort of thing possible can be found almost everywhere. My estimate is that only about 10% of public entities are run in an honest, open manner. The US seems to be becoming more corrupt and more divided between rich and poor. We're turning ourselves into a banana republic without the bananas.

Public entity attorneys have a tendency to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil when it comes to the public officials who pay them.

Bell sues its former city attorney, claiming faulty legal advice
LA Times
Jeff Gottlief
July 29, 2011

The city of Bell filed a malpractice lawsuit against its former city attorney and his two law firms Thursday, alleging that they were given faulty legal advice.

The suit contends that attorney Edward Lee provided legal advice that allowed Bell officials -- including former city Administrator Robert Rizzo and City Council members -- to receive extraordinary salaries and benefits. The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, also alleges that Lee gave the city poor advice regarding a variety of subjects, including business license fees and loans that Rizzo gave to employees.

The lawsuit singles out Lee's most recent firm, Best Best & Krieger, for allegedly failing to properly advise Bell on a $35-million bond offering in 2007.

"The city attorney was responsible for preventing the abuses of power by the prior city government that left the city in its current difficult financial situation," Bell's attorney, William Stoner, said in a news release. "The lawsuit seeks to place responsibility for not protecting against those abuses of power where it belongs and obtain just compensation from those responsible."

Lee had been Bell's city attorney for 15 years, first with Oliver Sandifer & Murphy and, for the last four years, with Best Best & Krieger. He resigned from Best Best & Krieger shortly after The Times revealed that Rizzo's salary was nearly $800,000 a year.

Duff Murphy of Oliver Sandifer & Murphy said he didn't know about the suit.

BBK is a well-known firm with more than 200 attorneys in eight offices in California and Washington, D.C., and serves as city attorney for many towns.

BBK's general counsel, Richard Egger, said he had not reviewed the complaint, "however, the firm believes that it acted appropriately at all times and looks forward to vigorously defending itself."

[Maura Larkins' comment: Watch out, taxpayers. Public entity attorney are apparetnly not planning to change their ways. We haven't heard a peep from the California Bar Association, have we?]

Lee could not be reached for comment.

Ex-Bell city attorney unsure how his signature got on contracts Edward Lee, Bell's former city attorney, said he had no reason to suspect anything was amiss with city finances. By Jeff Gottlieb LA Times October 28, 2013

Bell’s former city attorney testified Monday that starting in 2005, the rapidly escalating contracts of Robert Rizzo and Angela Spaccia were never discussed nor approved by the City Council.

Edward Lee said that even though his name was on most of the contracts, he did not recall signing them, raising the possibility that his name was forged or that the papers were slipped to him in a stack of other documents that required his signature.

[Maura Larkins' comment: The third possibility is that he has a bad memory or a selective memory.]

Lee testified that in order for the Rizzo and Spaccia contracts to be legal, they would have to have been placed on council agendas, discussed in public meetings and then be approved by a council majority.

Asked if it appeared to be his signature on a July 1, 2008, addendum to Rizzo’s contract, Lee replied, “Unfortunately, yes.”

But, he added, he had no idea how it got there.

Lee's testimony came during the second week of Spaccia’s corruption trial, in which she faces 13 felonies. Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 corruption-related charges and is expected to be sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison.

Lee, who served as Bell’s contract attorney from 1996 until shortly after the corruption scandal broke, said that after voters passed a city charter in 2005, he never saw Rizzo’s contract come before the council.

Asked by Spaccia’s attorney, Harland Braun, why he never brought it up, he replied, “I figured that was between Mr. Rizzo and the City Council… Either the council is going to raise it with me or Mr. Rizzo is going to raise it with me.”

The former city attorney said he had no indications of anything illegal going on in the city, “nothing that rang any alarm bells that said there was a legal issue I needed to look at.”

{Maura Larkins' comment: See what I mean about see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil?]

He said independent auditors didn’t bring up problems with finances and there were no questions from the staff.

“It all appeared from the surface the city of Bell was doing well,” he said.


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