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Sonoma County Equity Office Gave ARPA Funding to Inmate for DUI Case

If you can’t defund the police, run them over?

By Adina Flores, August 25, 2023 7:45 am

Within the County of Sonoma, school boards and nonprofits continue to be riddled with nepotism. Santa Rosa City Schools Board (SRCS) President Stephanie Manieri, her aunt, Executive Director Maria Isabel Lopez, Raizes Collective and SRCS Trustee Alegria De La Cruz appear to have weaved a web of deception for financial gain.

Since August 2020, Mrs. Alegria De La Cruz, a Governor Newsom appointee to the state’s Seismic Safety Commission has served as the County of Sonoma’s Equity Officer. Prior to this appointment, she was employed as the Chief Deputy County Counsel to the Board of Supervisors. She holds a background in public service and public interest for the State of California, the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, and at California Rural Legal Assistance. While the dictionary definition of “equity” is “fair and impartial,” Mrs. De La Cruz appears to have created a new interpretation of the term.


As referenced from Mrs. De La Cruz’s 2022 statement of economic interest, she receives income from local nonprofits Raizes Collective, Latino Service Providers and West County Health Centers, Inc.


On May 24, 2022, the Equity Office presented the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Community Resilience Programs Funding Plan to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors for approval.

Raizes Collective, which “was established June 2015 to empower and mobilize community through the arts, culture and environmental education,” was included within the ARPA funding recommendations as detailed below:

  • $570,000 – “Specialized and culturally appropriate individual and group mental health services for Latinx and low-income communities of the Russian River area through an expansion of Guerneville School District’s current efforts.”

  • $3,000,000 – “Client-centered, culturally responsive mental health support services, as well as systems-level change to positively impact mental health service system efficacy for vulnerable populations.”

Per the regulations set forth by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), “Government Code Section 1090 prohibits an officer, employee, or agency from participating in making government contracts in which the official or employee within the agency has a financial interest.”

“Section 1090 applies to virtually all state and local officers, employees, and multi member bodies, whether elected or appointed, at both the state and local level.

“Making” a contract includes final approval of the agreement, as well as involvement in preliminary discussion, planning, negotiation, and solicitation of bids.”

Violations of section 1090 may result in civil, administrative and criminal penalties for those who refuse to comply with the provision.

Raizes Collective operates under the leadership of Executive Director Maria Isabel Lopez. Ms. Lopez shares a mortgage with Ms. De La Cruz per County records of deed.


On August 12, 2020, a “Maria Lopez” was arrested for drunk driving after her car plowed into a parked police car. CBS News Bay Area reported:

“the crash happened Wednesday at around 9 p.m. in the area of Cleveland Ave. and Ridgeway Ave. where police were assisting with traffic control during a fire, according to Santa Rosa police.

An officer had arrived at the scene and parked his marked vehicle with the patrol lights on. Moments later, a white Hyundai Accent smashed into the patrol car’s rear driver’s side quarter panel.

The officer was slightly injured and taken to a local hospital where he was treated and released.

The Hyundai’s driver was identified as 39-year-old Maria Lopez of Santa Rosa. Police said Lopez exhibited objective signs of intoxication and was determined to be driving under the influence of alcohol.

Lopez was arrested and booked into Sonoma County Jail DUI causing injury. She was not injured.”

The criminal case docket issued by the County of Sonoma itemized several aliases for Ms. Lopez. Ms. Maria Lopez, aka “Ms. Maria Isabell Corona-Lopez,” appears to be the same individual who shares a mortgage with Equity Officer De La Cruz.

Ms. Lopez was sentenced with a felony charge for DUI.08 Alcohol: Bodily Injury. This was her second offense within a 7-year period according to court records.

According to the court docket, she was booked into jail on April 1, 2022, one month before the ARPA funding allocation for Raizes Collective was recommended by Equity Officer De La Cruz.

Ms. De La Cruz has served simultaneously as a trustee to the Santa Rosa City Schools Board while holding her position as the County’s Equity Officer. On April 10, 2019, the SRCS Board voted to move the approval of Alegria De La Cruz to fill the Trustee Area 3 vacancy until the elections in November of 2020. This was passed with a motion by Trustee Omar Medina and a second by Trustee Stephanie Manieri.

Director De La Cruz and Trustee Manieri failed to publicly mention that Ms. Lopez is Ms. Manieri’s aunt, a family member. Ms. Manieri’s spouse, Mr. Jorge Inocencio, previously served on the Raizes Collective Board.

Ms. De La Cruz’s statement of economic interest expressed income received from Latino Service Providers (LSP). Ms. Manieri is the Executive Director for the organization.

Per Ms. De La Cruz’s recommendations from the Equity Office, recommended ARPA funding presented at the May 24, 2022 County of Sonoma Board of Supervisors Meeting included an allocation for $836,941 to LSP as the fiscal lead for the Youth Promotores Intern Program.

An additional funding recommendation was recommended in the amount of $700,000 with LSP identified as a partner/subcontractor to West County Community Services.

An anonymous Board Member of Raizes Collective forwarded me internal financial records and requested confidentiality out of fear of retaliation. Income statements indicate that Raizes Collective only possessed $31,633 as of 6/30/2020. Following Ms. De La Cruz’s appointment to the Equity Office in August 2020, Raizes income increased to $372,411 as of 6/30/2021.

Per the California Office of Attorney General’s (OAG) Charity database, Raizes Collective appears to have no IRS FEIN, nor are they registered as a charity with the OAG.

According to the California Attorney General’s office, “when a charitable organization fails to submit complete filings for each fiscal year, its status on the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts will be listed as Delinquent. If the delinquency is not remedied, the Registry status will be further changed to Suspended, and/or Revoked. A charitable organization that is not in good standing with the Registry of Charitable Trusts may not operate or solicit donations in California. (Cal. Code of Regs., tit. 11, § 999.9.4.)”.

Raizes Collective, Trustee De La Cruz, Trustee Manieri, Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Sonoma County Equity Office, and Sonoma County Communications Manager Paul Gullixson declined to comment on this matter.

Trustees De La Cruz and Manieri are currently under investigation with the FPPC.

“Government created redlining, fencelining, and other programs that exclude minorities,”…“Now government can change those outcomes.”…But first it has to acknowledge its role in the problem. “You have to see the gaps you created.” -Ms. Alegria De La Cruz

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5 thoughts on “Sonoma County Equity Office Gave ARPA Funding to Inmate for DUI Case

  1. Investigative Journalist Adina Flores once again deftly exposes and shines a light on the nepotism, corruption and unethical behavior that exists in Sonoma County. Bravo!

  2. Nice work, Ms. Flores! Sonoma County: fleeced again by the DEI scam. Embarrassing that they fall for it every time. Take a look at the SoCo employment data on “ethnicity”, then disband the Equity Office entirely. It’s a web of grift.

  3. Alegria De La Cruz also worked for the ALRB & was instrumental in attempting to force UFW union representation on thousands of Farmworkers at Gerawan Farming. She and her cronies at the ALRB decided to not count the votes of the Latino farmworkers that were cast in a state sanctioned, legal decertification election. De La Cruz advocated that the thousand of ballots cast be destroyed without being counted, and the UFW installed as the worker’s reps. Federal court intervened, as Dan Gerawan filed lawsuit against ALRB, to protect the rights and integrity of the farmworkers vote. In the end, the state court ordered the ballots counted. By an 11-2 margin, the UFW was decertified. The farmworkers wanted nothing to do with the corrupt union, or the corrupt ALRB that tried to deny them their rights. De La Cruz should be criminally forensically investigated by an independent 3rd party & if applicable, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

  4. Now, how do we get rid of these government leeches? Next time you pay property tax, remember how much is wasted on graft!

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