California Democratic Party leader steps down amid Angel Stadium probe
A California Democratic party leader linked to a sprawling corruption investigation of the proposed sale of Angel Stadium land announced late Sunday her resignation from state and national party offices.
“The controversy over my role is now a hindrance,” state party secretary Melahat Rafiei wrote in a letter to the state and national chairmen of the Democratic Party. “The rush to judgment that is all too prevalent in politics these days has made clear to me that, for now, the best course of action for me and for the party is to resign from my positions.”
Rafiei, who has been accused of trying to bribe public officials in a mushrooming federal corruption probe, is also leaving her post as a member of the Democratic National Committee. She did not respond Sunday to a request for comment, but acknowledged in the letter that she was a confidential witness in the FBI probe of the proposed $320-million sale of Angel Stadium land.
Federal investigators said in a court filing that they believe there was fraud, bribery, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and other corruption in the negotiations between Anaheim and the Angels over the proposed sale.
The wide-ranging investigation includes the sale of Angel Stadium and allegations of bribery involving Anaheim’s mayor.
The city’s mayor, Harry Sidhu, is facing mounting calls to resign after he was named by the FBI in an affidavit as the likely perpetrator of numerous crimes during the negotiations. The affidavit doesn’t accuse Angels’ owner Arte Moreno or his Major League Baseball team of any wrongdoing.
Fellow Democrats had also called for Rafiei, a political consultant, to resign her party posts.
Rafiei told the Voice of OC that she was the unnamed confidential witness, dubbed “CW1,” mentioned in the FBI affidavits filed in court this month.
FBI investigators said in an affidavit that while the CW1 had cooperated with their inquiry for a time, the witness was complicit in corruption and no further cooperation is expected.
“I also believe CW1 has omitted material facts to investigators throughout CW1’s cooperation with the FBI, including additional instances where CW1 has offered to pay bribes to elected public officials,” Special Agent Brian Adkins wrote in an affidavit. The document was attached to a criminal filing charging the former head of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce with lying to a mortgage lender as part of the scandal.
Records from an FBI probe show how business interests run the Orange County city home to Disneyland and the Angels.
In her statement, Rafiei denied that she was involved in any wrongdoing and said she voluntarily cooperated with the FBI probe because of her patriotism.
“I have never attempted to improperly influence any elected official, and I am certain the work I undertook to root out corruption was in the best interest of the people of the state and the Democratic Party,” she wrote.
Rusty Hicks, the state party chairman, declined a request for comment but pointed to a statement he and other party leaders released praising Rafiei’s service and saying that they would appoint an interim replacement in July.
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