Los Angeles school board member Ref Rodriguez is back in court starting Wednesday over charges that he made illegal donations to his campaign in 2015.
In an effort to conceal donations from friends and families, Rodriguez kept the donation sources hidden.
Rodriguez is pleading not guilty, according to the LA Times, to three felony conspiracy charges, perjury and procuring and offering a false or forged instrument.
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He also faces an additional 25 misdemeanor counts related to the alleged campaign money laundering.
LA Times reports:
Prosecutors say Rodriguez carried out a scheme in which friends and relatives donated more than $24,000 to his campaign, with the understanding that Rodriguez would reimburse them fully. He could have donated the money legally to his own campaign, but Rodriguez allegedly broke the law by concealing the true source of the contributions — denying voters accurate information about support for his campaign, according to the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles Ethics Commission.
His cousin Elizabeth Tinajero Melendrez faces related misdemeanor charges. Prosecutors contend that she helped Rodriguez solicit and illegally reimburse the donors.She also has pleaded not guilty.
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The case is complicated by unrelated conflict-of-interest allegations, first reported in The Times, that have to do with Rodriguez’s former role as a senior executive at a local charter-school group.
Officials at the charter group, Partnerships to Uplift Communities, recently alleged that in 2014, Rodriguez signed or co-signed $265,000 in checks drawn on PUC accounts that were payable to a separate nonprofit under his control. That same year, they allege, Rodriguez authorized payments of $20,400 to a private company called Better 4 You Fundraising, in which he may have owned a stake at the time.
Rodriguez can’t seem to stay out of trouble.
Back in November, Partnerships Uplifting Communities (PUC), the charter school chain ran by Ref Rodriguez, was heavily investigated by the local Charter School Oversight Alliance.
A conflict of interest scheme was soon revealed, leaving the public questioning how Rodriguez spent thousands in taxpayer dollars, when it clearly wasn’t going to help the schools.
City Watch LA reports:
The bottom line is this: PUC is really a real estate development company, not a charter school operator. It uses its development arm – TriLakes – to borrow money from the State of California to build “schools,” and then uses funding from the poor children it lures into these “schools” to make its bond payments.
CSOA believes that PUC is borrowing more than it spends. It believes there is a gap between what is reported to the State of California and what is actually spent. If there is a gap – where is the missing money?
It further believes that PUC has paid family members and others with close ties to Rodriguez in the construction process. It also believes that PUC is feeding students into its for-profit college, Alliant University.
Can you imagine what would happen if LAUSD owned a for-profit college?
CSOA could be wrong. Everything could be perfect at PUC. If that is so, and everything is clean and kosher at PUC, well then….
Show Us the Money!
The sad truth is that it takes a group of taxpayers to provide oversight of charter school operators like PUC and Ref Rodriguez. The LAUSD doesn’t have the money to provide proper oversight of the 228 charters in the district – it just doesn’t. The same can be said of the State of California’s Finance Authority.
These charter schools “self-report.” This self-reporting is just a classic “fox watching the henhouse” scenario.
Rodriguez’s corruption keeps getting more and more apparent.
He purposefully deceived the public again and again.
Though “unrelated” in court, it’s clear that Rodriguez has a special interest in taking money, and lying about where it’s coming from and what he’s using it for.
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