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Memo Sought Millions in Donations in Deal for Candidacy

Times Staff Writer

The husband of Los Angeles school board candidate Nellie Rios-Parra acknowledged Monday night that he wrote a memo requesting that billionaire Eli Broad donate millions of dollars to her pet projects in exchange for her candidacy, which Broad had sought.

But Alvin Parra said the memo was “all a joke.”

“I don’t know if I even sent it at all,” Parra said of the memo obtained by The Times. But, he added later, “I can’t say with 100% certainty that it was not sent.”

The memo was addressed to Rios-Parra’s campaign consultant, Parke Skelton. He said he “never saw such a memo in my life.” Rios-Parra also denied she had seen the memo until Monday night.

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It outlines several conditions for Rios-Parra’s candidacy against incumbent David Tokofsky, including a $2-million donation from Broad to Rios-Parra’s employer, the Lennox School District.

“This way, I can call the Lennox superintendent to let him know, and he can agree to keep Nellie on the Lennox payroll two days a week if she is elected and pay her the salary difference (loss). This way we can tell Nellie that she needs not worry about losing money and she gets to KEEP the job she loves, AND save LAUSD,” Parra wrote. “Nellie gets it all and there is no loss $.

“There’s no rush to make the actual donation, just to agree to it.”

The memo was written Nov. 1, the day The Times reported that Broad had offered Occidental College $10 million as he sought to persuade its president, Ted Mitchell, to run against Tokofsky. Broad denied that the proposals were linked, but Mitchell said he had proposed the idea to the college’s board of directors as “a package.” Mitchell also told the board that former Mayor Richard Riordan would donate money to fund a top-level executive position if they gave their blessing for Mitchell’s school board run. In the end, Mitchell did not enter the race.

Broad and Riordan, founders of the Coalition for Kids political action committee, then interviewed Rios-Parra about the possibility of supporting her.

The coalition has so far donated $121,000 to Rios-Parra’s campaign, a fact that Tokofsky has used to attack Rios-Parra’s independence.

Parra’s memo suggests that his wife’s campaign should distance itself from the coalition and should persuade state Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg to be the impetus behind Rios-Parra’s candidacy.

“Jackie has agreed to meet with Nellie next week ... The ‘tainted’ Coalition cannot be Nellie’s public recruiter,” he wrote. “It’s got to be Jackie, then [Antonio Villaraigosa], and so on. They just got beat up, giving David an advantage in leverage and the chance to attack Nellie as being bought off.”

Parra said Monday that Rios-Parra never met with Goldberg individually. But his wife said Monday that the meeting had occurred. Goldberg could not be reached for comment, but one of her aides said that she has not endorsed anyone in the school board race. Nor has Villaraigosa.

Parra’s memo also demands that the coalition donate $400,000 to Rios-Parra’s candidacy, “and we control the expenses.”

But Amy Wakeland, spokeswoman for the Coalition for Kids, said that no such demands had been made.

“No one from the coalition has ever seen this memo or heard of the suggestions outlined,” she said. “It is an absurd list of demands that we would never consider under any circumstances.”

Parra, an aide to Supervisor Gloria Molina, also wrote in the memo that Skelton should keep the plan secret from his wife, saying, “Nellie doesn’t know about this.”

Rios-Parra confirmed that she had not seen it until a Times reporter showed her a copy; she wept after reading it.


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