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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