Ontario City Councilor Freddy Rodriguez gestures during a Facebook Live video on June 13, 2021. (Screenshots from Councilman Freddy Rodriguez Facebook page)
ONTARIO – Ontario City Councilor Freddy Rodriguez last year sent an Ontario woman a photo exposing his private parts during an online conversation where they were getting acquainted.
Rodriguez on Sunday admitted sending the picture in April 2020 and said the woman was “stunned” when she got it. He said he subsequently apologized.
“I’m human,” Rodriguez, 39, said in a Facebook video Sunday night. “Before I found my new faith, I was doing what everybody else is doing. I wasn’t doing anything illegal.”
The revelation comes on the eve of an extraordinary special election July 6 in which voters will decide whether to remove Rodriguez as a city councilor. The recall effort turns in part on his history of domestic abuse, which includes charges in California and Idaho and a restraining order in Oregon.
The recipient of the explicit photo, Annah Tubbs, told the Enterprise in an interview that she was sharing the episode so voters could consider the incident.
“I definitely think that if I was voting again, I would want to know,” Tubbs said. “For me, I wanted to give (Rodriguez) a chance because all these stories were in the past and people can change. But I don’t think he has.”
Rodriguez took to Facebook Live to address questions about the matter from the Enterprise.
In his 27-minute video, Rodriguez attempted to turn the focus from his explicit picture to a selfie Tubbs sent as part of a Facebook exchange. He characterized her as “scantily clad” in the photo.
But Tubbs said her online conversation with Rodriguez directly prior to his sending the explicit photo was not “a sexting-specific conversation.”
“We were talking about the virus and me cleaning,” she said.
An exchange Tubbs posted to the Citizens Coalition of Ontario and Community Facebook group on June 7 shows that she was texting with Rodriguez about Covid protocols before he sent her a photo of his bare penis with a caption.
Tubbs immediately reacted with shock, according to the exchange.
“WTF councilman,” she wrote, using an abbreviation that includes an expletive. “I expected a text saying I was gorgeous, not this.”
Terry Basford, executive director of Project DOVE, an Ontario organization which aids victims of domestic abuse in Ontario, said that non-consensual sharing of explicit photos between people not in a relationship “would fall for us, most likely, in the category of sexual assault.”
Tubbs and Rodriguez said that the two at no time were together one-on-one. When he sent the photo, Rodriguez was in a relationship with another Ontario woman who later obtained a restraining order against him.
Tubbs said that her communication last year with Rodriguez was almost entirely via Facebook Messenger.
In his video, Rodriguez said “we were just talking” but an exchange he described as “not the most appropriate” had led him to send his photo.
While their conversation had a flirtatious tone, according to Tubbs, she never crossed the line into sexting.
He said she “was sending me pictures of herself in very skimpy clothing.”
Tubbs said that the smiling selfie she sent, in which she is wearing a tank top with her bra strap visible, reflected how she normally dressed – including at work. She was employed at a church then.
Rodriguez cited the photo as justification for sending the photo of his penis.
“The conversation was leading up to that,” he said in his video. “There was already pictures being shared. She wasn’t sharing pictures of herself in a library reading about the Holy Bible. They weren’t appropriate pictures. They might not have been private parts, but they definitely weren’t appropriate pictures. It wasn’t something that you send to your churchgoing friend.”
Tubbs disputed that after reviewing Rodriguez’s video.
“It’s gross that (Rodriguez) doesn’t see lines of someone wearing clothes, that he has a perspective of (it) as inappropriate and acting like if it’s in any way provocative, that I’m somehow asking for a picture of his naked body,” she said. “I agree, my speech with him was not saintly and was extremely leading and flirtatious, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK.”
After sending the intimate photo, Rodriguez apologized.
The Facebook conversation between himself and Tubbs then continued, but with a markedly different tenor.
“We kept the communication going to the point where she felt comfortable communicating with me further,” Rodriguez said in his video. “We mutually decided, let’s just erase all these messages, let’s start all over, let’s talk about normal stuff and we can be normal friends.”
But Tubbs said that after she set a boundary with Rodriguez, he became “snide.”
In a message dated April 13, Rodriguez wrote, “Ok I will respect your boundaries. Sorry I wasn’t what you expected.”
As Rodriguez’s messages continued to be “hot and cold,” Tubbs said she lost interest.
She said she initially was “trying to keep the peace, trying to stay friends for overlapping political and organizational reasons.”
One reason she felt pressured to continue in contact with Rodriguez despite her discomfort was because he was an elected official, she said.
“We allow him to stand on a pedestal and let him slide with things,” Tubbs said.
Tubbs moved to Ontario in February 2020. Before that, she said she had been in Vale for a year, reinventing herself. She’d left a complicated past behind in Boise, but the relative isolation of Vale was good for her.
She said that by the time she moved to Ontario, she was a changed woman, with better eating habits, a yoga practice, and more than 100 pounds shed. So when she met Rodriguez, Tubbs thought she recognized a fellow traveler on the path of self-improvement.
Rodriguez moved to Malheur County from Idaho several years prior after arrests in Canyon County for domestic violence. It was a history that he admitted to her in their early conversations.
“I came out here to really transform my life,” Tubbs said. “So you’ve got to give people a chance.”
Facebook Messenger conversations show how Tubbs gave Rodriguez that chance, documenting a casual flirtation in early April 2020. The two met because of a mutual interest in advocacy for Ontario’s homeless population. While Rodriguez had been homeless himself at times, Tubbs was then employed at a shelter in Ontario, working more than 40 hours a week.
“Around here sometimes you just keep seeing somebody, and then you start talking and it gets flirtatious,” Tubbs said. “(Rodriguez) wanted to hang out and stuff. He kept asking me to give me a ride from the shelter where I was working, but I would say I’m good, or I would invite him to check out the free lunch that we served at midday.”
Still, Tubbs said, she was flattered by the councilor’s interest.
“I thought he was handsome when I first saw him, and that he was a councilman and he wanted to talk to me (was exciting),” she said.
But after he shared the intimate photo with her, Tubbs’ feelings changed. Where she had once felt attracted to Rodriguez, she said she then felt physically intimidated.
Others’ reactions didn’t help. Tubbs said she confided in a handful of mutual friends she had with Rodriguez, all men, shortly after the incident happened.
They “laughed it off,” she said.
“It’s just so hard in this community because you want to keep a good relationship with people,” Tubbs said. “What are you going to say to someone you’ve had a weird relationship with who keeps a knife at his side?”
Eventually, Tubbs said, her conversation with Rodriguez became so uncomfortable that she let go of the potential political benefits she might gain from remaining his friend.
“I don’t care if it helps, I just don’t want to talk to him,” she said, describing her mindset at the time.
The silence between Tubbs and Rodriguez mostly held from April 2020 until a recent encounter at an Ontario grocery store. Both recalled complimenting one another’s outfits, then going their respective ways.
Rodriguez noted that Tubbs hadn’t reported the matter to authorities – which she confirmed.
“Was there any report of any of this when this happened?…My name carries a lot of weight now, that’s what’s changed,” he said.
Councilor Freddy Rodriguez video of Sunday, June 13:
But Tubbs said she wasn’t motivated by self-promotion to go public about the photo.
“I’m interested in the truth,” she said.
“I was working at the homeless shelter (when this happened) and the councilman is the one who exposed himself to me,” Tubbs continued. “I just hope people would think about how they characterize people because more times than not, the creeps are dressed up real nice.”
News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.
SAFEGUARD YOUR LOCAL NEWS
Take one action today to help the Enterprise grow and do more for the community through accurate, fair reporting.
SUBSCRIBE: A monthly digital subscription is $5 a month.
GIFT: Give someone you know a subscription.
ONE-TIME PAYMENT: Contribute, knowing your support goes towards more local journalism you can trust.