4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Oceanside firefighters consultant gets comeuppance

Melahat Rafiei went too far

Oceanside Firefighters mailer
Oceanside Firefighters mailer

The October 2019 FBI arrest of Democratic fundraiser/consultant Melahat Rafiei for “theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds” was not widely known until two weeks ago. FBI special agent Brian Adkins said Rafiei “lied” to the FBI. An affidavit outlined a number of pay-to-play schemes that fingered the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, marijuana licenses and other bribe-tainted arrangements.

Although she claims corruption charges against her are “flat out wrong,” Rafiei admitted her role as a cooperating informant.

Melahat Rafiel. the union gave a $3,000 contribution in 2021 to ”Malahat For California,” which supported Rafiei’s successful run for Secretary of the California Democratic party.

Days after the news broke, Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu resigned May 24. Two days later the approved sale of the Anaheim Stadium property by the city of the Anaheim was rescinded.

What was not disclosed was that Long Beach-based Rafiei, who was a member of the Democratic National Committee and the Secretary for the California Democratic Party, had helped direct political campaigns for San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott and for the Vista and Oceanside Firefighters Associations.

The 104 paramedics and firefighters who make up the Oceanside Firefighter Association pay $32.50 a month in union dues. A seven-member board oversees how those dues are spent, including to whom its political contributions are distributed.

The Oceanside Firefighters Association paid Rafiei’s Progessive Solutions Consulting more than $170,000 starting in 2014. In 2020 alone the OFA paid Rafiei $69,750 to help them decide how to run their political campaigns that year. In 2020 the Oceanside Firefighters gave major support to both the North River Farms ballot measure and Michelle Gomez for city council effort. Both campaigns failed.

The insider says he expects the firefighters under the new board will be less pro-Democrat.

The Oceanside Firefighters union spent more than $41,000 to elect Michelle Gomez even though her candidacy was racked by widely publicized reports that she failed to pay her campaign workers from a previous campaign.

Not all Oceanside Firefighter Association political contributions were Democratic. The labor union gave current congressional candidate Christopher Rodriguez $1500 last year for his 2022 re-election to the Oceanside City Council.

Yet the firefighters made some conspicuous pro-Democrat donations. There were no elections last year so the Oceanside Firefighters didn’t pay Rafiei consulting fees. Still, the union gave a $3,000 contribution in 2021 to ”Malahat For California,” which supported Rafiei’s successful run for Secretary of the California Democratic party. Rafiel resigned from that position May 22.

Mara Elliott paid Rafiei’s Progressive Solutions Consulting $16,000 for campaign consulting between July 2015 and December 2016. During that period Rafiei donated $350 to Elliott’s campaign.

Why would a firefighter’s union give $3,000 to a political consultant two counties away who was running for a position in a political party? And why would they give two contributions ($1,500 and $4,500) to the Democrat Party of San Diego?

Attempts to reach longtime Oceanside Firefighters Association president Dave Overton were unsuccessful. Overton recently resigned from that position. The veteran political director for the Oceanside Firefighters Association, Hayden Harshman, declined to comment for this article.

One person with knowledge of the inner workings of the Oceanside Firefighters Association says he expects a major change on how they do business. The insider says that four new members of the seven-member board are currently being selected by its members.

The insider says he expects the firefighters under the new board will be less pro-Democrat. He says about 40 outspoken members are supporting big changes to the union leadership that would bring them closer politically to the Oceanside Police Officers Association. The police group tends to support Republican-leaning candidates with its endorsements and donations.

The Oceanside Firefighters Association has a history of staging bold political campaigns. In 1991 the labor union supported the recall of deputy mayor Melba Bishop. In 2009, they launched a campaign to boot city councilman Jerry Kern from office. Both campaigns were unsuccessful.

The unnamed insider suspects the Oceanside Firefighters Association may be less political overall this year as a result of the Melahat Rafiei affair.

Those who run political campaigns have long known endorsements by police and firemen can be a powerful way to influence voters. After accepting $30,000 from the Newport Beach-based Integral Communities, developers of the North River Farms housing development, the Oceanside Firefighters political action committee publicly supported the controversial project and sent out pro-North River Farms mailers displaying firefighters in uniform. The association stated it wanted the 585-home development to replace agricultural land because there was a promise to build a new fire station and pay for more staff.

In addition to North River Farms, the firemen accepted $5,000 from Howard Jacobs, the developer behind two controversial, high-density developments currently in process. It was not clear if the Oceanside firefighters did anything for Jacobs in lieu of his donation.

The city of Oceanside had no official reaction to the Oceanside Firefighters Association sending out pro-North River Farms mailers that prominently shows Oceanside firemen in uniform. There are no statutes that prohibit Oceanside employee unions from accepting money from developers who do business with Oceanaside.

“The City has no say over the political expenditures of an employee association,” Oceanside city attorney John Mullen wrote in an email.

The source who chose not to be identified thinks the new Oceanside Firefighters board may now focus on lobbying efforts to get the city of Oceanside to do what it needs to do to retain department staff. He says the Oceanside Fire Department has lost 27 employees in the last ten years who left for other agencies in Orange and San Diego Counties that pay more. “Why wouldn’t you leave if you can get $700 more a month somewhere else?...Everyone knows we have twice the calls (workload) of Carlsbad (Fire Department). That’s just the reality of Oceanside. Why wouldn’t you go there for more money and less work?”

San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott paid Rafiei’s Progressive Solutions Consulting $16,000 for campaign consulting between July 2015 and December 2016 when Elliott was running for her first term as city attorney. During that period Rafiei in turn donated $350 to Elliott’s campaign. A request for comment from Elliott’s spokesperson Gerry Braun about the Elliott/Rafiei relationship was not productive.

The Vista Firefighters Association had used Rafiei as a political consultant from 2020 and through at least March 2022. A Vista Firefighters Association said he would have board president Miles Sweeney give an official comment on the Vista group's relationship with Rafiei. It was not received by deadline.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Sprung Monkey’s sobering moment

An epidemic of accidental overdoses
Oceanside Firefighters mailer
Oceanside Firefighters mailer

The October 2019 FBI arrest of Democratic fundraiser/consultant Melahat Rafiei for “theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds” was not widely known until two weeks ago. FBI special agent Brian Adkins said Rafiei “lied” to the FBI. An affidavit outlined a number of pay-to-play schemes that fingered the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, marijuana licenses and other bribe-tainted arrangements.

Although she claims corruption charges against her are “flat out wrong,” Rafiei admitted her role as a cooperating informant.

Melahat Rafiel. the union gave a $3,000 contribution in 2021 to ”Malahat For California,” which supported Rafiei’s successful run for Secretary of the California Democratic party.

Days after the news broke, Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu resigned May 24. Two days later the approved sale of the Anaheim Stadium property by the city of the Anaheim was rescinded.

What was not disclosed was that Long Beach-based Rafiei, who was a member of the Democratic National Committee and the Secretary for the California Democratic Party, had helped direct political campaigns for San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott and for the Vista and Oceanside Firefighters Associations.

The 104 paramedics and firefighters who make up the Oceanside Firefighter Association pay $32.50 a month in union dues. A seven-member board oversees how those dues are spent, including to whom its political contributions are distributed.

The Oceanside Firefighters Association paid Rafiei’s Progessive Solutions Consulting more than $170,000 starting in 2014. In 2020 alone the OFA paid Rafiei $69,750 to help them decide how to run their political campaigns that year. In 2020 the Oceanside Firefighters gave major support to both the North River Farms ballot measure and Michelle Gomez for city council effort. Both campaigns failed.

The insider says he expects the firefighters under the new board will be less pro-Democrat.

The Oceanside Firefighters union spent more than $41,000 to elect Michelle Gomez even though her candidacy was racked by widely publicized reports that she failed to pay her campaign workers from a previous campaign.

Not all Oceanside Firefighter Association political contributions were Democratic. The labor union gave current congressional candidate Christopher Rodriguez $1500 last year for his 2022 re-election to the Oceanside City Council.

Yet the firefighters made some conspicuous pro-Democrat donations. There were no elections last year so the Oceanside Firefighters didn’t pay Rafiei consulting fees. Still, the union gave a $3,000 contribution in 2021 to ”Malahat For California,” which supported Rafiei’s successful run for Secretary of the California Democratic party. Rafiel resigned from that position May 22.

Mara Elliott paid Rafiei’s Progressive Solutions Consulting $16,000 for campaign consulting between July 2015 and December 2016. During that period Rafiei donated $350 to Elliott’s campaign.

Why would a firefighter’s union give $3,000 to a political consultant two counties away who was running for a position in a political party? And why would they give two contributions ($1,500 and $4,500) to the Democrat Party of San Diego?

Attempts to reach longtime Oceanside Firefighters Association president Dave Overton were unsuccessful. Overton recently resigned from that position. The veteran political director for the Oceanside Firefighters Association, Hayden Harshman, declined to comment for this article.

One person with knowledge of the inner workings of the Oceanside Firefighters Association says he expects a major change on how they do business. The insider says that four new members of the seven-member board are currently being selected by its members.

The insider says he expects the firefighters under the new board will be less pro-Democrat. He says about 40 outspoken members are supporting big changes to the union leadership that would bring them closer politically to the Oceanside Police Officers Association. The police group tends to support Republican-leaning candidates with its endorsements and donations.

The Oceanside Firefighters Association has a history of staging bold political campaigns. In 1991 the labor union supported the recall of deputy mayor Melba Bishop. In 2009, they launched a campaign to boot city councilman Jerry Kern from office. Both campaigns were unsuccessful.

The unnamed insider suspects the Oceanside Firefighters Association may be less political overall this year as a result of the Melahat Rafiei affair.

Those who run political campaigns have long known endorsements by police and firemen can be a powerful way to influence voters. After accepting $30,000 from the Newport Beach-based Integral Communities, developers of the North River Farms housing development, the Oceanside Firefighters political action committee publicly supported the controversial project and sent out pro-North River Farms mailers displaying firefighters in uniform. The association stated it wanted the 585-home development to replace agricultural land because there was a promise to build a new fire station and pay for more staff.

In addition to North River Farms, the firemen accepted $5,000 from Howard Jacobs, the developer behind two controversial, high-density developments currently in process. It was not clear if the Oceanside firefighters did anything for Jacobs in lieu of his donation.

The city of Oceanside had no official reaction to the Oceanside Firefighters Association sending out pro-North River Farms mailers that prominently shows Oceanside firemen in uniform. There are no statutes that prohibit Oceanside employee unions from accepting money from developers who do business with Oceanaside.

“The City has no say over the political expenditures of an employee association,” Oceanside city attorney John Mullen wrote in an email.

The source who chose not to be identified thinks the new Oceanside Firefighters board may now focus on lobbying efforts to get the city of Oceanside to do what it needs to do to retain department staff. He says the Oceanside Fire Department has lost 27 employees in the last ten years who left for other agencies in Orange and San Diego Counties that pay more. “Why wouldn’t you leave if you can get $700 more a month somewhere else?...Everyone knows we have twice the calls (workload) of Carlsbad (Fire Department). That’s just the reality of Oceanside. Why wouldn’t you go there for more money and less work?”

San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott paid Rafiei’s Progressive Solutions Consulting $16,000 for campaign consulting between July 2015 and December 2016 when Elliott was running for her first term as city attorney. During that period Rafiei in turn donated $350 to Elliott’s campaign. A request for comment from Elliott’s spokesperson Gerry Braun about the Elliott/Rafiei relationship was not productive.

The Vista Firefighters Association had used Rafiei as a political consultant from 2020 and through at least March 2022. A Vista Firefighters Association said he would have board president Miles Sweeney give an official comment on the Vista group's relationship with Rafiei. It was not received by deadline.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Gonzo Report: Secret show in the Cajon Zone

If you don’t know, you’re not invited
Next Article

In the ashes of Kate Sessions' heart

The Susan Golding-Dick Silberman marriage, the beginnings of Sol Price's Costco, C. Arnholt Smith owned the town, Richard Meltzer does Roger Hedgecock thoroughly
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close