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.
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.
“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
- Gov. Newsom Chairs Dem Governors Assoc. Policy Committee Following $1.5M Pfizer PAC Donation - September 26, 2023
- ‘Equity:’ the New Term for Misappropriation? - September 6, 2023
- OPINION: California Representatives Emphasize Profit Over People - August 31, 2023