OC corruption probe: Democratic Party official resigns leadership roles
A state representative for the Democratic National Committee has resigned from her elected leadership roles in the organization as a result of a corruption investigation in Anaheim, according to multiple reports.
The Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register reported that Melahat Rafiei is resigning from party leadership positions on Sunday.
Rafiei told the Register she was resigning as secretary for the California Democratic Party, as well as from her appointed roles on the OC Fair Board and on Anaheim’s city culture and heritage commission because the investigation had “become a distraction” for those groups.
Rafiei is the former executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County and was the first Iranian-American elected to her roles in both the state and national Democratic parties. She is also, according to court filings, a cooperating witness in an FBI probe focusing on former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu, among others, and led to federal charges against former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Ament.
According to the report, the investigation has stalled a $320 million deal to sell Angel Stadium and led to calls for Sidhu to resign, which he did Monday, but he has not been formally charged with a crime.
“In court documents filed last week, it came to light that Rafiei had been arrested in 2019 then on charges of ‘theft or bribery’ involving federal funds related to a cannabis scheme,” according to the newspaper. “The FBI states that Rafiei had promised two heads of a local cannabis company that she could help get a favorable cannabis ordinance passed in Irvine if they gave her money to bribe two council members,” a charge Rafiei has denied. The charges were dismissed without prejudice, however, meaning they could be refiled in the future.
Rafiei said in her statement that she wore a wire and was “not compelled to cooperate.” She added, “Any assertions to the contrary are false. I chose to assist federal investigators and prosecutors out of a sense of duty and patriotism. If those individuals now named by federal prosecutors are, in fact, guilty of corruption and are brought to justice, I will be proud of the role I was willing to play despite what that role has now cost me.”
Party leaders, however, are upset that Rafiei took on leadership roles and has helped run campaigns for local candidates who were apparently unaware of her three-year involvement in the investigation, the Register reported. And that was the reason that on Saturday, the California Democratic Progressive Caucus joined calls for her to step down from her party leadership roles.
In a statement, the caucus addressed the matter by saying, “While it is possible that the FBI case is overstated and that the audiotape doesn’t say what it seems to say, the important issue for the party is that (Rafiei) ran for CDP Officer and hid from delegates that she was arrested for corruption.”
“She put her own interests ahead of the party and that is never acceptable,” the statement said.