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Ref Rodriguez resigns Eastside school board seat after settling money-laundering charges

Ref Rodriguez at Sept 12 School Board Meeting

Refugio “Ref” Rodriguez, who had been faced with campaign money-laundering charges, has resigned from the school board, district officials announced this morning.

The resignation was made as Rodriguez plead guilty to a felony county of conspiracy but will avoid jail time, the L.A. Times reported. Instead, he will receive 3 years probation and have to perform community service

Rodriguez, who grew up in Cypress Park, emerged as a leading advocate of charter schools on the board. He represented District 5, which stretched from East Hollywood and Los Feliz to El Sereno and East L.A.

Board President Mónica García and Board Vice President Nick Melvoin issued a statement saying that they hoped to convene the board in the coming weeks to figure out the process of replacing Rodriguez. But it’s not clear how long that will take.

“While we would like to ensure no break in representation for District 5 by appointing a temporary voting representative as soon as possible, we would also like to call a special election to fill the vacancy as soon as we can,” the statement said. “A Board majority will have to agree to a plan.”

Last September, the L.A. County District Attorney  filed felony charges against Rodriguez for violating campaign fundraising laws by reimbursing nearly $25,000 in campaign donations to friends, family members and others. Here is the District Attorney’s summary of the case:

“Rodriguez announced in November 2014 that he was running for the school board. Despite his late start in the filing period, he raised more than $50,000 during his first campaign reporting that ended Dec. 31, 2014.

The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission received a whistleblower complaint in March 2015 about Rodriguez’s fundraising activities.

In total, 25 donors, most of whom were family and friends, were allegedly paid back $24,250, prosecutors said. The donors’ names were listed on a campaign finance report that was signed by Rodriguez and submitted to the commission.

Prosecutors commended the investigation launched by the commission which found that over a 22-day period in December 2014, nearly half of the campaign contributions were fraudulent because Rodriguez and Melendrez reimbursed them.”

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4 comments

  1. Dorit Dowler-Guerrero

    Happy he is gone, but VERY upset that he was in office in the first place! Bennett Kayser, who held the office before Rif, and Andrew Thomas- an educational advocate, would have made MUCH better board members.

  2. Some school board members have said they want to appoint an interim member, who would have full voting rights, to fill the vacant seat until a special election can be held. How is that even legal? Without being elected, any vote cast by an interim board member would only represent the influence of the other members of the school board, not the residents of this district. There should simply be a special election as soon as possible to elect a new, and hopefully uncorrupted board member.

  3. The sad truth is that he’s not the only person engaged in all sorts of illegal activities. The teachers union, UTLa, behaves the same way. It’s only a matter of time before the lid gets blown off. There are no good guys in this situation. That’s why I don’t send my kids to LAUSD. There is almost no one left in that district that can be trusted.

    • I think you’re forgetting all the hard working teachers in LAUSD.

      You know, the ones who show up in the face of overwhelming obstacles to raise our collective youth. The people who take care of children who are neglected and ignored in their own homes.

      Let not forget the task that teacher do to salvage the lives of the underserved young people in our communities and provide them with encouragement and hope for a better future through the promise of education.

      These are the people whom we should hold as examples of empathy and altruistic public service. The teacher who buys supplies with their own paycheck, stays up late grading papers and giving feedback, who fills the voids in their students’ lives when others can’t or don’t.

      We should all recognize the dedication they display as their work becomes increasingly more difficult and support, financially and socially, continues to diminish. Let’s appreciate teachers and return their profession and role in our society to one if high regard.

      Ref Rodriguez and his greedy, lying behaviors are emblematic of a popular narrative where teacher-bashing acts as a smokescreen for corruption, mismanagement, and exploitation of our neediest neighbors by powerful people seeking to profit.

      I hope the people and parents in Los Angeles will take Ref’s conviction as a wake-up call to remove the sheep’s clothing from the reform “wolves”.

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