Rodriguez declares intent to fight recall as petitioners round up enough signatures

Ontario City Council President Freddy Rodriguez at a March 4 meeting. (Liliana Frankel/The Enterprise)

ONTARIO – The Malheur County Clerk’s Office announced early Tuesday that petitioners seeking to recall Ontario City Councilor Freddy Rodriguez had obtained the required signatures to force Rodriguez to either resign or for a recall vote.

As of Wednesday, Rodriguez, who serves as council president, has not submitted his decision to the Ontario city recorder’s office but indicated on his Facebook page that he would not resign.

“To everyone begging me to resign and circumvent 10,500 citizens, I have always made sure the voters have their views heard. I will do no different here. This will go to the voters with the ever elusive ‘other half of the story’ for them to weigh,” Rodriguez wrote Tuesday.

The petition received 512 verified signatures, 18 more than needed by the June 7 deadline.

Cydney Cooke, an Ontario business owner and the chief petitioner of the recall effort, said that the petition received more signatures that weren’t turned in once the requirement was reached.

The official petition sheet, on which all signatures were collected, cites Rodriguez’s history of domestic abuse, defamation of character, inappropriate behavior to citizens on social media and in person, and the violation of a city ordinance that prohibits councilors from interfering with administrative services as grounds for his removal.

City Recorder Tori Barnett said that she spoke with Rodriguez Tuesday afternoon and informed him that he has until Friday at 5 p.m. to submit a written letter of resignation.

If he opts to send the issue to a vote, he will have until Monday at 5 p.m. to submit a 200-word written statement that would go on the ballot. The statement that Cooke submitted when filing the petition would also go on the ballot.

Councilor Ken Hart said in an email that the petition receiving enough signatures to send the issue to a vote is proof enough that city residents had lost trust in Rodriguez and that he should consider the impact that a recall vote would have on the city.

“Should he decide to allow the recall vote to proceed I will cast my vote in favor of his being recalled as an Ontario city councilor,” said Hart.

Councilor Eddie Melendrez also said in an email that he was saddened that the city has made it to this point and like the citizens that voted for Rodriguez, he gives everyone the “opportunity and the support to be successful.” Melendrez said, personally, that “if citizens vocally expressed dissatisfaction with myself, I would resign.”

Mayor Riley Hill and Councilors Sam Baker, John Kirby, and Michael Braden hadn’t responded by Wednesday morning to an email from the Enterprise seeking comment on the issue.

The Facebook group “Ontario Citizens for Freddy Rodriguez’s Recall” called for citizens to email city councilors and urge them to encourage Rodriguez to resign and “save our community thousands of dollars on a special election.”

CORRECTION: Freddy Rodriguez will have the opportunity to provide a statement to voters for a recall election. The statement used on the recall petition itself would be used again on the ballot. An earlier version incorrectly said petitioners could submit a new statement. The Enterprise apologizes for the error.

News tip? Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected] or 616-610-3093.