California Democratic Party Secretary and Democratic National Committee (DNC) member Melahat Rafiei resigned from her positions on Sunday due to mounting evidence that she offered to bribe public officials and omitted some facts in an FBI affidavit over the growing Angels Stadium Scandal in Anaheim.
Since the late 2010’s, the deal between the City of Anaheim and Los Angeles Angels owner Art Moreno to sell the stadium and surrounding parking lots to him for $320 million has been marred in controversy. While the deal has been accused of multiple issues ranging from violating California law to the massive reduction of affordable housing units being placed on proposed developments in the property, the major issue has to do with bribery. Specifically, Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu being accused by the FBI in accepting $1 million in exchange for performing final acts to help the stadium deal go through.
However, in that same FBI affidavit, others had been named for wrong doing. Some of the confidential witnesses had issues, including one known as “Confidential Witness 1” or, CW1. In an FBI affidavit looking into charging the former head of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce with lying to a mortgage lender over the stadium deal, CW1 was said to have worked with the FBI for a time but was ended due to CW1 actually being complicit themselves.
“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,” said FBI Special Agent Brian Adkins.
The identity of CW1 remained a mystery until earlier this month when Rafiei revealed to Voice of OC that she was CW1 and that, out of patriotism, she had become a Confidential Witness to the FBI. Pressure quickly mounted against her from both Republicans and Democrats, leading to her hasty resignation on Sunday.
In a letter to the California Democratic Party and National Democratic Party on Sunday, Rafiei denied all wrongdoing but said that she was to resign due to her involvement in the scandal being too controversial for her to stay.
“The controversy over my role is now a hindrance,” Rafiei said in her letter on Sunday. “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. 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.”
Reaction to Rafiei’s resignation on Monday was mostly in favor of it, with many wanting Rafiei to face justice if the FBI’s allegations are proven true.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you lie politically or what kind of time you put in, whether it was a year on the job or fifty. You don’t bribe public officials,” said Hank Liu, a Southern Californian lawyer who has been involved with corruption cases in the past, to the Globe on Monday. “Whenever someone resigns this quickly after being found out, it’s never a good sign. It’s not an admission of guilt, but it is really not a good look and the public always sees resignations around scandals like this as, in the very least, suspicious.”
“This resignation in no way clears her of anything or stops the FBI from looking in more on her and what happened. This is just an attempt to save some face and not have her party be bogged down even more into this than they already are. This is an election year, with primaries only a few weeks away. They can’t afford a scandal from becoming bigger and involving more people in the heart of one of California’s most fought after counties.”
“If you are a Republican down there, this is a gift. One of the top state Democrats just resigned due to bribery allegations in an FBI-led case that has been covered by everyone from ESPN due to the baseball connections to the nations top newspapers to making the rounds on social media. Every candidate there now has a lot more ammunition to use against their opponents.”
As of Monday, calls for the resignation of Mayor Sidhu continue to grow, Rafiei has not given any other statements, and California Democratic Party Chairman Rusty Hicks has said that her position is to be filled in July with an interim replacement.