Former Ontario City Councilor Marty Justus holds a petition to recall Council President Freddy Rodriguez. He presented a letter to the city council on Tuesday, March 16, saying Rodriguez should lose his city positions. (Submitted photo)
ONTARIO – Two former Ontario mayors and four former councilors Tuesday urged the Ontario City Council to act against Councilor Freddy Rodriguez, requesting he be stripped of his city committee roles and that he resign.
The letter was read in person by former councilor Marty Justus, who Rodriguez has publicly, though not credibly, accused of pedophilia.
“Councilor Rodriguez’s actions are not only a distraction, but are unbecoming of an elected official and they have drawn into question the entire judgment of this elected body,” said the letter. “We respectfully request that you acknowledge a mistake was made by the council when he was elected city council president.”
DOCUMENT: Former officials’ letter
The letter was signed by Justus, former mayors LeRoy Cammack and Ron Verini and former councilors Dan Capron, Charlotte Fugate, Norm Crum, and Tess Winebarger..
“By removing him from this position and all of his committee assignments, it will show the citizens of Ontario that a city councilperson’s misdeeds in their personal and professional lives have consequences.”
The council took no action on the letter.
Rodriguez has one active restraining order for domestic violence, as well as a history of charges in California and Idaho, and several citizens have publicly complained about his bullying on social media.
City Attorney Larry Sullivan, however, said that there was little the council could do to remove Rodriguez from his elected position.
“The council could theoretically take steps to censure a council member,” said Sullivan. “But that’s something that the council could do to make a statement to the public rather than anything the council could do to enact direct punishment to that council member.”
Capron and Justus had supported a measure to censure Rodriguez during their tenure on city council last fall, but were voted down 4-2, Capron said.
Now at this point, Capron said, “I don’t think the council has any kind of appetite to take this on.”
Sullivan said that councilors could personally support a petition seeking to recall Rodriguez, it would be “inappropriate” for the council as a whole to take a stance.
Rodriguez, elected to the council in 2018, arrived for Tuesday’s session after the presentations. He offered his own statement, taking on concerns that he no longer lives inside the Ontario city limits. Under the city charter, only those living inside city limits can be elected to the council.
In sworn testimony at a court hearing last week, a friend said she was renting a travel trailer to Rodriguez that was parked at Montgomery Farms. The site includes an RV park west of Ontario’s city limits.
Rodriguez testified at the same hearing last week that he lived in the trailer with his daughter and one dog. He didn’t respond to written questions from the Enterprise earlier this week seeking details on his residency.
At Tuesday’s council session, Rodriguez read from a prepared statement describing how the trailer was only one of the homes he maintains. The statement didn’t explain why Rodriguez, who described himself as homeless in January, would have two homes.
“I have two locations where I live. I also pay and I am financially responsible for paying a residency here inside city limits. Why? Because I’m not stupid,” he said.
DOCUMENT: Freddy Rodriguez’s statement
“I was paying for my residency within the city limits but chose to stay in my van because of having my dog with me. I would definitely understand that not many here or even listening would understand the issues of being homeless and the struggles that it entails. But I can tell you I fought to maintain my residency in the city that I have been elected to lead regardless if the financing of it kept me struggling.”
City Manager Adam Brown said that despite a 2018 resolution mandating city residency for all public department heads, there was nothing in the charter that “speak(s) so much to residency on or after taking office.”
Brown said Rodriguez provided him an address in the city. In a court filing recently, Rodriguez listed his address as a home on Northwest Fourth Street.
“There’s nothing that I can find that requires him to stay so long inside the city versus out of the city to maintain residency,” Brown said.
Capron left the council last October after three years of service because he moved outside city limits. He said that no one from city government talked with him about the ambiguities of the city’s residency requirements.
“It’s just one of those things where you know what the rules are,” he said. “The citizens of Ontario wouldn’t want someone with outside influence deciding what they’re doing.”
News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.
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