EDITORIAL: Rodriguez should resign from Ontario council

Malheur County Courthouse (The Enterprise/file)

The time has come for Freddy Rodriguez to realize he can no longer serve the community of Ontario as a city councilor. His recent conduct and his record of arrests stretching back over nearly 20 years erodes any confidence the public should have in him. The community deserves better.

Rodriguez was elected to the Ontario City Council in 2018, taking office the following January. The Enterprise endorsed him then, believing he would bring an important perspective to city government. But he took office without disclosing to voters key facts about his past, and it has taken the diligent reporting of the Enterprise to bring those to light.

His personal conduct broke into full public view in June when an Ontario woman went to court and obtained a restraining order to keep Rodriguez away from her. She feared for her safety.

Rodriguez tried to twist the circumstances to make it appear he was the victim. The councilor, who is 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, took what appears to be a retaliatory, bullying tactic. He went after the victim with his own claims that he feared her, obtaining his own restraining order.

This is part of a pattern with Rodriguez, it appears. When it comes to claims from women of abuse at his hands, he says it was they who attacked him. Before coming to Ontario, he was twice charged in domestic violence cases in Idaho in connection with abusing different women. He pleaded guilty in one case and got a second case dismissed with his promise to attend special classes.

Now, it comes to light, Rodriguez has an even earlier run-in over domestic abuse. The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office reported he was arrested in California in 2003 for domestic battery. The outcome of the case couldn’t be readily established.

But how many men have faced such accusations in three different states? Domestic violence is one of the most vicious crimes there is – and one where men often get their victims to avoid reporting to police in the first place.

The Enterprise provided Rodriguez detailed questions over the Idaho and Oregon incidents. He didn’t answer them. Instead, he used social media to say he owed an explanation not to the newspaper but to constituents. Clearly, he recognizes his duty to explain himself to Ontario. We can’t find a record that he has done so.

Instead, he fought the restraining order in court last week. He said in social media postings there was “zero” truth to the claims of the victim. His defense included putting his 11-year-old daughter on the stand as a witness. Who does that to their child? The state judge found the situation was a “close call” but still ordered Rodriguez to stay away from the victim for the next year.

Other recent police reports show Rodriguez conducting himself in ways that no public official should. He kept the victim’s laptop despite being asked to return it, claiming he was owed money. The police had to step in to get it back. And then police warned him not to return to the home of another man who had a dispute with him. Police reported he could face trespass charges if he went back.

A fellow councilor, Dan Capron, said he found Rodriguez’s behavior to him to be so intimidating that he went to the Oregon State Police.

Meantime, the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office apparently is continuing its own criminal investigation of Rodriguez for matters now being kept confidential.

All of this puts to the lie Rodriguez’s claim when he ran for city councilor two years ago.

“My strong communication skills allow me to articulately and thoughtfully communicate without bullying, manipulating or belittling the public, staff or council members,” he wrote in late 2018.

His behavior is unacceptable in a public official. We don’t expect those who volunteer for public duty to be angels, but neither should the community tolerate the sort of rogue behavior displayed by Rodriguez. Court records indicate, for instance, he has bragged about special pull with Ontario police while denigrating the police chief.

We think public agencies need to act:

• Ontario should seek an outside investigation into the claim in court files that Rodriguez tried to use a special city coin to get out of a traffic jam with an Ontario officer. If the claim is proven, that could amount to official misconduct.

• The Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman needs to review Rodriguez’s role as a volunteer ombudsman for those in care facilities. How does someone with a record of arrests for domestic violence qualify to serve vulnerable individuals? Domestic violence, after all, is about controlling vulnerable people.

• The Ontario City Council should request that Rodriguez resign. The council has limited authority to remove him from his seat, but it does have the political power to pass a resolution demanding he step down. To remain silent would be to tell the community: “He’s one of us, so we’re going to leave it be.”

Rodriguez, though, should act without that prod. He needs to focus on his personal issues and challenges. He needs to clear the way for a volunteer who can better fit the model of a public official. Rodriguez should resign immediately. – LZ

Contact the Malheur Enterprise with news tips, story suggestions or questions by email at [email protected].


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