Last week, the Voice of OC published the plea agreement entered into by disgraced political consultant Melahat Rafiei. In the agreement with federal prosecutors, Rafiei pleads guilty to the federal crime of wire fraud in connection with a bribery scheme in 2018 involving two Irvine Councilmembers (who are no longer on the Council).
In 2020, Rafiei was hired to run Tammy Kim’s City Council campaign and Farrah Khan’s Mayoral campaign. During that election, Kim and Khan ran together as a team.
Once elected, Kim and Khan continued to work as a team, voting together on nearly every issue facing the Council. At the same time, Rafiei became a familiar figure at City Hall, meeting frequently with City staff.
Last year, when news first broke of the FBI investigation regarding Rafiei, both Kim and Khan quickly issued statements in support of their campaign manager. However, once it became clear that her association with Rafiei could be politically damaging, Kim sought to distance herself from Rafiei and began attacking Khan.
During the January 24th City Council meeting, Kim joined newly-elected Councilmember Kathleen Treseder in calling on the City to launch its own investigation into Rafiei.
Councilmember Larry Agran opposed the motion, citing his own experience with a politically motivated, Council-directed investigation that cost Irvine taxpayers nearly $2 million — all in an attempt to tarnish Agran’s name in the lead-up to an election. That so-called “independent investigation” was so flawed and biased that the California Attorney General prosecuted the firm hired by the City for professional misconduct. The prosecution resulted in the accounting firm being forced to pay a fine of more than $500,000 … and lose its license to practice in California.
Let’s get real here! There is an ongoing FBI investigation into public corruption at Irvine City Hall. As Agran stated, it is critical that the City fully cooperates in that investigation so that those involved in criminal conduct are brought to justice. The City Council should not be conducting its own investigation in an attempt by certain Councilmembers to create their own self-serving narrative.
So, why does Vice Mayor Kim want to side-step the ongoing federal investigation and launch a separate City investigation? At the January 24th Council meeting, Kim stated that she wanted a quick 30-day City investigation to “clear my name.”
It should be obvious to everyone that it would be a conflict of interest to have the City investigate itself … with the Council directing and overseeing the investigation. As an elections law attorney myself, I consulted a friend who teaches legal ethics and is an expert witness in these matters. He told me that any internal investigation by the City that was controlled by the Council would itself be unethical, lack credibility, and viewed as highly questionable.
But, Tammy Kim is no stranger to questionable conduct. In 2021, Kim pushed through a multi-million dollar contract for Casco Construction to install, maintain and operate electric vehicle charging stations in parking lots at the Great Park, despite the fact that two other firms had been recommended by City staff following a formal bid process.
It’s been more than a year since Kim told the Council they needed to select Casco and its proposed equipment supplier, Noodoe, because the contract would create Irvine manufacturing jobs and result in a $2 million annual payment to the City. We now know that Noodoe closed up shop in Irvine before Kim made those statements; all manufacturing is done in Taiwan; and the promised $2 million in City revenue has now been downgraded to less than 10% of that figure.
I agree with Kim that an investigation is in order … someone needs to start looking into her actions in the Casco/Noodoe electric charging station matter.
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