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Ex-Sierra College President Kevin Ramirez exonerated by state political watchdog

Five-year-old case filed by Trustee Aaron Klein finally closed by Fair Political Practices Commission
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The Fair Political Practices Commission has found no wrongdoing after a review of 2004 allegations filed against former President Kevin Ramirez by Trustee Aaron Klein. Klein’s complaint to the commission and the uproar that followed led to Ramirez’s departure six months later with a $500,000 contract buyout, a call in a grand jury report for an apology by Klein, and a short-lived recall campaign against Klein and another trustee, Jerry Simmons. An Applegate resident, Ramirez continues to work as a consultant with colleges around the state. “I’d just call it closure,” Ramirez said. “It provides tremendous closure for me, albeit a long time coming.” Klein issued a short statement on Friday: “I respect the FPPC's decision to overlook the committee's failure to properly disclose its donors prior to the election, yet I maintain my firm belief that full disclosure of political campaign donors before Election Day is critical to the health of our representative democracy.” Klein stated. Klein had contended Ramirez violated conflict-of-interest provisions of the Political Reform Act in connection to solicitation of donations by the Sierra College Foundation. The donation were to support a bond-measure campaign for improvements at the Rocklin campus. Klein, who was newly elected to the board in 2004 and continues to serve, had accused Ramirez of what a 2006 Placer County grand jury report described him calling a conscious money-laundering scheme. The allegations by Klein were based on his conclusion that the foundation was used as an intermediary to raise funds for bond campaigns while keeping donors’ names secret. Commission Counsel Zachary Norton’s statement on the decision to close the case states an investigation “did not reveal evidence that the foundation failed to meet its disclosure requirements.” Ramirez said the FPPC filing by Klein in December 2005 precipitated his decision to agree to a contract buyout. He had been appointed Sierra president in 1993 after three years as vice president. In all, Ramirez has 35 years of service in California community colleges before his June 2005 retirement. The grand jury report was scathing toward Klein, noting that no foundation donors had requested anonymity and the error in not reporting names was quickly rectified once it was pointed out. The commission probe came to a similar conclusion, that there was no wrongdoing by Ramirez. As an intermediary, the foundation had collected contributions and turned over the funds and the lists of contributors to the committees that were primarily formed to support the bond measures, Norton said. Intermediaries do not have filing obligations under the Political Reform Act but are required to disclose to the recipient the identity of the contributors, he said. The foundation provided donor lists to the committees prior to the November 2004 bond election but the committees were initially unaware that they were required to disclose this information, Norton added. When it was known, the committees filed amended forms, disclosing the information identifying donors, he said.