Rosa Orozco-Lopez, a member of the Williams Unified School District Board of Trustees, pleaded guilty last Wednesday to a series of misdemeanor charges in connection to lying about where she lived and voted when she ran for public office.
Orozco-Lopez, 62, of Yuba City, pleaded guilty to one count of voter fraud and two counts of fraudulent voting in a deal worked out with the Colusa County District Attorney’s Office to exclude serving time in jail.
Colusa County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Thompson sentenced Orozco-Lopez to three years of formal probation and 100 hours of community service, along with fines and restitution.
Thompson also ordered Orozco-Lopez to immediately resign from the Williams Unified School District board and prohibited her from attending or participating in school board meetings while on probation.
Orozco-Lopez is also not to complete her community service obligation at any school in Colusa County or in any activity connected with the Williams Unified or Williams Unified Superintendent Edgar Lampkin, Thompson said.
In exchange for pleading guilty, District Attorney Matthew Beauchamp dropped a number of felony charges, including one count of voter fraud, two counts of fraudulent voting, two counts of perjury, and one count of filing false nomination papers.
Because the misdemeanor charges essentially carried the same punishment (up to three years in jail) as their felony counterparts, Beauchamp said the deal keeps basically the same sanctions in place, while saving Colusa County taxpayers thousands of dollars on a jury trial.
“We wanted her to take personal responsibility, and she did,” Beauchamp said.
California law only allows citizens to register to vote, cast a ballot, or hold office in the district in which they legally reside. Orozco-Lopez, with her lead attorney, Daniel Olmos, of Palo Alto, at her side, admitted to the fraud.
Orozco-Lopez’s arrest and conviction followed a three-year investigation brought to the District Attorney’s Office in May of 2015 by the Colusa County Grand Jury, after it was learned that Orozco-Lopez used her father’s address as her place of residence to serve on the school board while residing in the home she owns in Sutter County. The investigation was initiated in Orozco Lopez’s first term, before she was reelected in November 2016.
Orozco-Lopez was arrested on April 6, 2018, after 13 search warrants were served on her father’s home on Ninth Street, in Williams, and her own home in Yuba City, as well as on Orozco-Lopez’s social media accounts, bank and utility receipts, and cell phone records.
On April 19, following Orozco-Lopez’s arrest, Williams Unified launched its own ethics investigation.
The $27,000 taxpayer-funded report by Steven Hummel of Parodoyx Technology concluded that the investigation was a “witch hunt” and that Orozco-Lopez was allowed to have two residences, thereby Williams Unified absolved Orozco-Lopez of any wrongdoing.
Public court records obtained by the Pioneer Review related to the DA’s investigation, however, indicated that the Williams home was not a second residence, but that it was owned and occupied by Orozco-Lopez’s family members. Tax and utility records indicate the home is in Orozco-Lopez’s father Genaro Orozco’s name.
According to public records, the room Gernaro Orozco initially claimed was his daughter’s, on the day the search was conducted, contained two small children’s beds. At the time, Genaro Orozco was a foster parent licensed out of Butte County. A separate investigation initiated by the state, as a result of the District Attorney’s office investigation, resulted in Orozco being cited for having foster children of opposite genders share the same room.
Following the search of the home, the Orozco family later claimed Orozco-Lopez actually lived in a separate residence behind the home, although the utility records of the cottage were in the name of Orozco’s brother, court records indicate.
Hummel, along with school district officials who supported the embattled school board member, claimed Orozco-Lopez’s prosecution was instigated by the teachers union, who were at odds with the administration at the time of her arrest, and by disenchanted former school board members who wanted to create vacancies on the board.
The DA’s Office said there was no evidence to support that claim.
Representatives from the union and former school board members also called Hummel’s commissioned report ludicrous because the investigation into Orozco-Lopez’s voter fraud predated the hiring of the current administration and the tensions at the school district. ■