Ontario Mayor Riley Hill and Councilor Freddy Rodriguez. (The Enterprise/Rachel Parsons)
UPDATE: Freddy Rodriguez finds the tort notice “weird.”
ONTARIO – Marty Justus, former Ontario city councilor and recent target of public attacks, is demanding that city officials repudiate criminal allegations against him and “cease and desist from making these allegations.”
Attorney Ted Reuter, representing Justus, also put the city on notice that Justus may sue for violations of his civil rights that could cost the city up to $1 million.
The notice focuses on the conduct of Councilor Freddy Rodriguez, who in April said in a public session of the Ontario City Council that he believed a friend’s assertion – never proven – that Justus was a child molester.
The notice also said Mayor Riley Hill had engaged in “tortious conduct” and that the mayor “directed or urged” a police investigation that produced “no evidence of any criminal conduct.” The notice said the mayor helped Rodriguez to make the allegations.
The notice said the entire Ontario City Council has allowed Rodriguez to continue making “his absurd, homophobic, retaliatory and false allegations.”
READ IT: Letter to city of Ontario
City Manager Adam Brown said he would be handing the letter over to the city’s attorney, Larry Sullivan, and working with him and the council for advice on how to handle it.
“I hope we can get back to focusing on the work of the city is really what I’d love to see, and I think most of the council would love to see that too,” Brown said.
Hill didn’t respond to telephone or email messages Thursday morning seeking comment.
Rodriguez said he had received the letter and subsequently told the Enterprise by email, “Its a letter basically stating Justus is not currently suing but that mayor and I are bad and everyone else is kinda bad. Its weird.”
The demand is the latest turn in a political drama that has been unfolding before city council meetings and in the community. A recall drive is underway, gathering signatures to force a public vote to remove Rodriguez from office.
At a recent council meeting, Rodriguez quit the session midway when Councilor Eddie Melendrez asked for decorum.
Justus, who is openly gay, has regularly appeared at recent council sessions, directly addressing Rodriguez and in some instances the entire council. He has sat in sessions, holding signs for the council to see related to the recall and the council’s conduct.
The notice said Rodriguez has “advanced” his allegations “from the dais during city council meetings and through videos and postings on social media. He has done so in his capacity as an Ontario city councilman with the aid of the mayor and with the tacit permission of other members of the council.”
The notice said Rodriguez and Hill “have had direct contact with law enforcement and in violation of the city charter, directed or urged them to investigate these allegations.” It said Rodriguez continued to press the allegations even after “no evidence of any criminal conduct was uncovered.”
“The conduct of Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. Hill is outrageous and calculated to cause Mr. Justus severe emotional distress,” the notice said.
The notice also took aim at the rest of the city council, which includes Melendrez and Councilors John Kirby, Sam Baker, Michael Braden and Ken Hart.
“Every member of city council is fully aware that Mr. Rodriguez has continued to press his absurd, homophobic, retaliatory and false allegations,” the notice said. “It has continued to allow him to make false and defamatory statements during its meetings and in other forums while identifying himself as a representative of the city.”
The council’s “inaction” was “tantamount to ratification” of what Rodriguez and Hill had done.
The notice said that Justus “is hesitant to file a lawsuit which might only serve to drain the city’s coffers. However, he is entitled to legal redress and will certainly seek it if these actions continue.”
Reuter said in the notice that the actions of Hill and Rodriguez “could certainly give rise to claims for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and abuse of process.” He said the allegations “appear to be calculated to play on typical homophobic stereotypes.”
News tip? Contact editor Les Zaitz at [email protected].
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