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L.A. Board President Steps Down From Leadership Amid Election-Related Charges

The Los Angeles school board president is stepping down from his top role on the board while facing three felony charges related to his 2015 school board race. 

In a note posted on Twitter on Tuesday, Ref Rodriguez said he was doing so to "allow the board to remain focused on the hard work ahead of us."

"I do not want to serve as a distraction to my colleagues, or to any of the other dedicated teachers, principals, and employees who do the hard work of educating students every day," he said. "I have always been driven by my passion to give all kids, but especially those with backgrounds similar to mine, a chance at a brighter future, and I believe this decision will help us continue doing exactly that."

He will remain on the board.

Rodriguez's decision to step aside from the board presidency, to which he was elected in July, comes almost a week after the Los Angeles County district attorney's office charged him with three felonies, including conspiracy, perjury, and offering false or forged testimony in connection to his first run for a school board seat in 2015.

The district attorney's office alleges that Rodriguez and his cousin, Elizabeth Tinajero Melendrez, reimbursed more than $24,000 in campaign contributions—nearly half of the estimated $50,000 he reported in a Dec. 2014 filing—made by 25 individuals who were primarily family and friends.

Both Rodriguez and Melendrez were charged with 25 misdemeanor counts of assumed name contributions, according to the district attorney's office.

Some of the people Rodriguez reimbursed, according to the Los Angeles Times, worked at Partnerships to Uplift Communities, or PUC, a Los-Angeles-area charter school network that Rodriguez co-founded.

Rodriguez is part of the pro-charter majority that now leads the Los Angeles Unified school board.

After the charges were announced, Rodriguez said in a statement that he had been working with the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission for two years to resolve the issue. He said he hoped the issue will be resolved "expeditiously and fairly." 

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