In Partnership with 74

Documents: Here are Ref Rodriguez’s checks and the conflict-of-interest complaint against him

Sarah Favot | October 18, 2017

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Ref Rodriguez during his 2015 campaign.

Partnerships to Uplift Communities, the charter school network co-founded by school board member Ref Rodriguez, released 109 pages of documents Wednesday relating to its conflict-of-interest complaint filed against Rodriguez.

PUC alleges that Rodriguez illegally authorized $285,000 in payments to nonprofit organizations he oversaw during his tenure at PUC, as first reported Monday by the Los Angeles Times.

One of the striking things about the 16 checks released Wednesday and the accompanying documents is that Rodriguez both requested the funds and signed the checks (sometimes with fellow PUC co-founder Jacqueline Elliot’s signature). Also, the turnaround time for receiving the funds was immediate. The checks were signed on the same day the requests for payment were made.

Here are links to the documents and what they cover:

The complaint:

PUC filed a three-page complaint Friday to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which investigates conflict of interest complaints against public officials, as well as campaign finance and ethics violations.

“Ref Rodriguez participated in several transactions in his official capacity which he had a personal financial interest,” the complaint states. It then goes on to detail several transactions that Rodriguez authorized and signed on behalf of PUC to Partners Developing Futures, a nonprofit organization Rodriguez headed as CEO.

The requests for payment:

PUC released Fundraising Check Request forms where Ref Rodriguez requested payments on behalf of Partners Developing Futures and Better 4 You Fundraising.  It appears that Rodriguez also had a financial interest inBetter 4 You Fundraising, according to PUC.

The documents also include copies of checks and invoices.

Here are links to records for March 10, 2014, May 15, 2014, May 30, 2014, June 2, 2014, June 3, 2014, another June 3, 2014, and Oct. 3, 2014.

The checks:

The 14 checks to Partners Developing Futures were made between May 30 through Oct. 3, 2014, and total $265,629.86.

Rodriguez also requested payments and authorized checks to Better 4 You Fundraising paid from PUC.

Those two checks were issued March 10 through May 15, 2014, and total $20,400.

That’s a total of $286,029.86 that PUC is alleging Rodriguez had a conflict of interest in authorizing. PUC is an independent charter school, which receives public funds to operate.

PUC also said in its complaint that it believes LA Unified paid $27,000 to PUC for services related to Partners Developing Futures.

What were the funds for?

PUC had signed an agreement with Partners Developing Futures to develop a LEAD program, which would provide mentoring, training, and professional development for emerging school leaders who were persons of color. The agreement was signed in 2014. The payments were “ostensibly” for reimbursements related to consulting for this program, according to the complaint. But an attorney representing PUC told the LA Times there is little or no evidence any services were given.

Here is a copy of the agreement signed between PUC and PDF. Rodriguez signed on behalf of PDF, while Elliot signed on behalf of PUC.

Here is a copy of the agreement Rodriguez signed on behalf of PUC and PDF with LA Unified. It is dated Dec. 5, 2014.

Rodriguez was PUC’s treasurer at the time of the payments in question. PUC released a timeline of Rodriguez’s employment at PUC since 2008.

PUC also released copies of 990s, federal tax filings for nonprofit organizations, filed by Partners Developing Futures in 2011 and 2012 that list Rodriguez as the organization’s CEO. Rodriguez earned a $180,000 salary in 2011 and $140,000 in 2012 from PDF.

Rodriguez has also been charged by the LA County District Attorney’s Office with three felony counts and 25 misdemeanor counts related to an alleged political money laundering scheme during his 2015 bid for school board. Following an investigation by the City Ethics Commission, prosecutors say Rodriguez, with the help of his cousin and campaign volunteer, reimbursed campaign donors $25,000 while signing documents that said the donations he reimbursed were legitimate.

Rodriguez is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday to be arraigned. He has not yet entered a plea.

Rodriguez briefly appeared in court on the day the charges were filed but was released on his own recognizance. He is expected to appear Tuesday with his attorney.

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