Three members of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday called on their colleague Ref Rodriguez to take a leave of absence from the panel while he faces felony charges for allegedly lying on a financial disclosure form and laundering money into his own campaign.
Board president Monica Garcia, vice president Nick Melvoin and board member Kelly Gonez issued a joint statement urging Rodriguez to temporarily step aside. The trio are allies of Rodriguez, forming a four-person group of so- called “reform” members of the board considered supportive of charter school expansion in the nation’s second-largest school district.
“We serve the people of greater Los Angeles because we believe there is a better path for the children of our great district,” according to the trio of board members. “Unfortunately, the serious allegations against Dr. Ref Rodriguez distract from that critical mission.
Nobody should be tried in the press or the court of public opinion without having a fair hearing. But in order to keep making progress towards our goal of 100 percent graduation, we have asked Dr. Rodriguez to take a leave of absence from the board. As with any employee of the district who is accused of misconduct, this allows for a quicker resolution while enabling the district to continue its work.”
Rodriguez could not be reached for immediate comment. He had been serving as president of the LAUSD board when he was charged in September. He stepped aside as board president, but remained on the seven-member panel.
Rodriguez pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning to charges of reimbursing nearly $25,000 to donors he listed on a campaign finance form. Prosecutors say he gave his cousin the money, then instructed her to recruit people to donate to his school board campaign and reimburse them with his cash.
Rodriguez was elected in 2015 to the District 5 seat on the LAUSD board, representing areas including Atwater Village, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Los Feliz, Mount Washington and Silver Lake. He is a co-founder of Partnerships to Uplift Communities, a series of charter schools in northeast Los Angeles and the northeastern San Fernando Valley.
–City News Service