LOS ANGELES – Former Bell City Councilman George Mirabal today defended his salary — said to total more than $100,000 annually — based on “the amount of time and sweat spent in the community.”
“There’s no clock when you’re working on the council,” the 63-year-old defendant testified. “If a family calls you and needs help, you don’t say, ‘(it’s) four o’clock, I can’t go.”‘
Mirabal. who’s on trial along with five other ex-city officials, faces 20 counts of misappropriating public funds.
In 2008, according to documents presented by Deputy District Attorney Edward Miller, Mirabal and his fellow council members were making $1,332 per month for work on the city council, plus additional sums paid for work on behalf of various city agencies. That included about $18,000 a year for their work on the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority and another $18,000 from the Community Housing Authority, for example.
On July 1, 2008, the council voted for a 12 percent annual increase in their pay from those two authorities, declaring the scale “obsolete.”
The prosecution alleges that those city agencies — which funded the bulk of the council members’ pay — rarely met, sometimes doing so only to push through a pay increase.
Defense attorneys have countered that the council members worked full- time on behalf of the city and that much of that work was done outside of scheduled meetings.
Mirabal and his family had owned two funeral homes. After selling them to a “major corporation” in 1993, he continued to stay involved, but says he spent more than 40 hours a week on city matters.
Under cross-examination, Mirabal said he couldn’t estimate how many hours or how many days he spent working on issues related to specific city agencies.
“I believed … and still do … that a council person should be judged on the body of their work,” Mirabal testified.
Mirabal was the second defendant to take the stand — following Teresa Jacobo, 55, also charged with 20 counts of misappropriation.
Both testified that they relied on former City Attorney Edward Lee, among others, to make sure that salary levels were within legal limits.
“Legal is Ed Lee,” Mirabal said.
As to what he thought about the level of compensation, Mirabal said, “I thought that compensation gives you a freedom … freedom to be where you have to be do to your job correctly.”
Mirabal sometimes struggled to remember the content of certain ordinances or resolutions, but said he was pretty sure about the section of the California Constitution related to local government powers.
“I used to pay craps or dice,” Mirabal said. “So it was either Section 7 or Section 11.”
Former Mayor Oscar Hernandez, 65, is also charged with 20 counts of misappropriation. Also on trial are former Councilman Victor Bello, 54, who is charged with 16 counts; former Councilman Luis Artiga, 51, who is charged with 12 counts; and former Councilman George Cole, 63, who is charged with eight counts.
Testimony will resume on Wednesday morning, as courts are closed tomorrow in recognition of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.