EDITORIAL: Voters should oust Rodriguez from Ontario council

Freddy Rodriguez could have been an important voice on the Ontario City Council. He squandered that chance with reprehensible behavior. Ontario voters ought not hesitate to vote in the special July 6 election to remove him from office and out of public power.

Rodriguez came to the Ontario City Council after a race in 2018 that was promising. He had served on community groups. He would bring sorely needed diversity to the council. He could bring the unique perspective of life as a homeless person. That’s why the Enterprise endorsed him then.

Now, we find no reason he should remain in his seat.

In assessing the choice, voters have to consider his public duty versus his private life. But any public official surrenders a certain amount of privacy when they assume power. They are expected to lead with integrity, with honesty, with focus on service.

Some may wonder whether Rodriguez’s private troubles foreclose his ability to serve. It does. His private life has spilled into public duty in troubling ways. He apparently doesn’t see it that way. Look at the record.

First, there is his long and unacceptable record of abusing women. He made startling admissions recently in a live social media event about that. He told of his first arrest in California in 2003, and told viewers that he pleaded guilty to battery for grabbing his then-girlfriend and he took a year of classes about domestic violence.

They apparently didn’t make much of an impression.

He was subsequently twice arrested in Idaho on accusations of abusing two other women. In one instance, he said on one of his videos, he said lost his temper with a girlfriend and told her, “This makes me feel like hurting you.”

He again took classes. In his statements to police, he seemed intent on making himself the victim – a common tactic when he is confronted about his conduct by women, political operatives or civic leaders.

He twice has faced restraining orders in Malheur County, accused of abusing two more women. One order stuck. He fended off the second, but given what’s emerged about his record, the testimony of his victim that Rodriguez lost his temper is more credible than his claim she attacked him.

In all, five women have separately and credibly accused Rodriguez of abusing them. He shrugs this off. We don’t know the full story, he tells the community.

He has at the least bullied another woman – Cydney Cooke, the chief petitioner of the recall. Rodriguez has cast her as an opportunist and implied some improper motive for her work. And he has had the gall to suggest he was being accused “of horrendous acts and having zero physical, electronic or police record evidence.” Why galling? Because of his public and absolutely baseless allegations that a former city councilor was a pedophile. This is one of Rodriguez’s most despicable acts while sitting in a councilor’s chair.

He did what he accuses others – he waged a public smear campaign against the former councilor. He had zero evidence – none. He had second- and third-hand information that in fact had nothing to do with children. Yet Rodriguez persisted. He claimed he was just worried about Ontario’s children – though he waited months to share his anguish with law enforcement.

No public official – ever – ought to use their position of authority to wrongly accuse a citizen of crimes. Never. Citizens have rights and they should not fear that the government will come for them in unfair and unjustifiable ways. Rodriguez compounded his failure as a leader by issuing a paltry apology – and then trying to walk it back. The man can’t be trusted.

And that bullying was no exception. It is his style – to lash out at those who criticize him.

He was fine, for instance, with the informal Citizens Coalition of Ontario until that group with more than 800 members found his conduct unacceptable. Rodriguez’s response? To cast it as a “hate group” – a preposterous label that he should retract.

He was fine with Community Serve Day – until the group didn’t bend to his will to do projects he thought should be undertaken. The group was so unnerved by his subsequent attacks that it asked other city councilors to intervene.

And he has taken a slash-and-burn approach with his fellow councilors. He stalked out of a meeting when Councilor Eddie Melendrez rightly raised the issue of decorum. Rodriguez since then has found one way after another to criticize Melendrez, who has exhibited more courage in this mess than any other person on the council.

Councilor Ken Hart at the same time led reforms to the city charter that would allow for the removal of a council president – Rodriguez holds that title now – and the removal a councilor for extraordinary behavior. Rodriguez got out his political bat and started swinging at Hart, one of the most respected civic leaders in Ontario.

That wasn’t enough for Rodriguez. He suggested the entire city council was corrupt, serving personal interests. He didn’t offer a shred of evidence. None. He just sprayed the council with his intemperate remarks.

Rodriguez didn’t have the grace to resign after petitioners turned in enough signatures to force a vote. He wants the judgment of the entire community.

Fine. Ontario voters should vote against domestic violence. They should vote against political bullying. They should vote against the abuse of public power. 

They should vote for integrity, for reasonable behavior in public office, for the restoration of a focus on public – and not private – matters.

Ontario voters should get out their ballots and act to remove Freddy Rodriguez from the Ontario City Council. – LZ

CORRECTION: The criminal case in which Freddy Rodriguez said on a recent video that he lost his temper and told a victim “this makes me feel like hurting you” occurred in Idaho. An editorial published June 16 incorrectly stated he was discussing a prior criminal case of his in California. The Enterprise apologizes for the error.