Ontario City Councilor Freddy Rodriguez and Mayor Riley Hill at a Black Lives Matter protest in Ontario in 2020. New court filings claim that Rodriguez has said he has Hill's "protection." (Rachel Parsons/The Enterprise)
UPDATE: Freddy Rodriguez late Wednesday morning responded to questions from the Enterprise.
UPDATE: This article was updated with new statements from Freddy Rodriguez and Steven Romero.
ONTARIO – A state judge has restrained Ontario City Councilor Freddy Rodriguez from having contact with a former girlfriend who said in court filings she had been injured by Rodriguez.
The restraining order issued on Monday, Jan. 25, by Malheur County Circuit Court Judge Lung S. Hung bans Rodriguez from all contact with the 34-year-old woman for a year. Rodriguez is already under orders from a restraining order issued last year to stay away from another former girlfriend.
Hung acted in the most recent case after the victim asserted in sworn statements that Rodriguez “caused me physical injury, tried to cause me physical injury, (and) made me fear that I was about to be physically injured.”
The Enterprise does not identify victims of domestic abuse.
Hung issued the restraining order after finding that Rodriguez “represents a credible threat to the physical safety” of the victim and that she “is in imminent danger of further abuse.”
The circuit court said that as of Monday, Rodriguez had not asked to contest the restraining order.
Rodriguez didn’t respond to detailed written questions and a request for comment sent last week by the Enterprise to his three email addresses. On Wednesday, Jan. 27, he falsely posted on his councilor Facebook page that “the Enterprise has not reached out to me for comment.”
He later said in an email to the Enterprise, "I have the answers to every question you asked but I won’t provide them privately."
In a Facebook post, Rodriguez blamed “stupid decisions” for the situation.
“It’s my choice in women,” he wrote. “I can’t keep making bad choices like that.”
Rodriguez, 39, has a history of domestic abuse, with an arrest in California in 2003 for what records show was a charge of battery involving a spouse, two charges dating from 2010 in Idaho’s Canyon County, and a restraining order obtained by an Ontario woman last year that remains in force until at least June of this year. He lost a challenge last year to overturn that order.
In court filings supporting the newest restraining order, the victim described a tumultuous relationship with Rodriguez and detailed several episodes of abusive behavior starting in December.
The victim asserted that on Jan. 9, Rodriguez arrived at her house just outside Ontario demanding to use the pickup truck she had borrowed from a friend.
“I blocked the door. He barged in and pushed pas(t) me,” she wrote in her filing. Then, according to her account, Rodriguez pinned her up against a hutch, grabbed the keys to her friend’s truck, and scratched her on the neck in the process.
The filing contains an image of a woman’s neck with a long diagonal abrasion. The victim’s face is not in the shot.
After forcibly taking the keys to the pickup truck, the victim’s account continues, Rodriguez got in the driver’s seat and started the ignition, only to realize that he was unable to back the truck up with a trailer attached.
“I refused to help him,” she wrote in her filing. “He yanked the keys from the ignition and threw the keys at me, hitting me in the neck causing red marks. He exited the truck and slammed the door which broke the door light. He picked up the light, opened the door, and threw the broken light at me.”
The victim’s daughter, now 11, provided a handwritten account of the incident, submitted to the court.
“There was yelling I was scared,” the girl wrote. “He came in the house and pushed past my mom. She was blocking the door. He took the keys from my mom and it hurt her.”
The petition for the restraining order also details the victim’s claims that Rodriguez bragged about his political power and police connections. The victim in last year’s case had reported similar claims.
According to the victim’s statements, Rodriguez claims to have the “protection of his best friend Riley Hill the mayor who he has gotten drunk with after council meetings on a number of occasions.”
Hill did not respond Tuesday to a list of detailed written questions from the Enterprise.
In documents filed last June as support for the other restraining order, that former girlfriend claimed Rodriguez had said Ontario police were “my pals” and that he had nothing to fear from Ontario Police Chief Steven Romero.
The latest filing recounted a similar anecdote.
“I watched the Ontario police pull him over, no license plate, registration and insurance,” the victim said in her filing. “The Ontario police let him go without ticketing. This confirmed in my mind that the Ontario police would not protect me...He says that he can do what he wants and get away with it because the Ontario police are his friends.”
Romero said his officers don’t show favoritism.
“What they do for him, they’ll do for anyone else. They have the discretion to do that in those type of scenarios.”
He explained that “each police officer is given discretion in how they enforce certain laws. You pull over an average, law-abiding citizen who’s coming home from church or the store, you feel they deserve a break, you could absolutely do that and that is a standard practice across American policing.”
The city by Monday hadn’t produced documents sought under a public records request regarding between the Ontario police and Rodriguez. Romero had previously said that officers having contact with Rodriguez were to report to supervisors.
The victim also attributed to Rodriguez a claim “that he will use his power of being a councilman to destroy and ruin my life.”
She included as exhibits copies of what she said were text messages from Rodriguez.
“I never brag but...I do gotta admit to being a (expletive) fierce local political badass,” according to one message included in the court filing.
In another episode described in the documents, Rodriguez tried to reach the victim by contacting her daughter when the victim would not answer his calls. The victim alleged that she had never given him her daughter’s contact and said that “he got her phone (number) through his work at T-Mobile.”
In an email to the Enterprise Wednesday, Rodriguez wrote, "I have text evidence where she gave me that number to communicate with her when she lost her phone."
The court filings also raise the question of where Rodriguez lives.
As an elected city official, he is required to live within the city limits. Councilor Dan Capron stepped down from his city role in October because he moved outside of Ontario.
One text message represented to be from Rodriguez on Jan. 14 said he was “in a barn outside town” and one three days later refers to “vanning it.”
The petition listed one address for Rodriguez as a fifth-wheel trailer at Country Campgrounds, an RV park just outside Ontario city limits.
City Manager Adam Brown said he was aware that Rodriguez has been homeless recently.
“He asked if he left the city, as in lived outside the city, would he have to abandon his seat? And I told him yes, he would,” said Brown, citing the city charter.
Brown said Rodriguez also asked about living in a travel trailer inside city limits. Brown told the Enterprise that city law only allows trailers in mobile home parks.
Rodriguez moved to the Ontario area about six years ago from Idaho, where he was the subject of two domestic abuse cases involving different women in 2010. The criminal charge in one case was dismissed after he attended court-ordered treatment. In the second case, he pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of domestic assault and was sentenced to 24 months of probation and a 52-week domestic battery treatment program.
This history came to light last summer following an investigation by the Enterprise, briefly spurring a recall effort which failed to amass the required 500 signatures.
Rodriguez currently works as a salesman at T-Mobile and has served on Ontario City Council for two years. He was elected council president on Jan. 7 by his fellow councilors, all men. The role, which positions him as next in line for power should the mayor be unable to serve, is largely ceremonial, but still carries a certain weight. He presides over council meetings.
Hill and Councilors Michael Braden, Ken Hart, Eddie Melendrez, Sam Baker and John Kirby were each contacted through their city email accounts with questions about Rodriguez and their support for him as council president. Hill, Baker and Kirby didn’t respond.
“It is my understanding that a restraining order is not a criminal conviction,” Braden wrote. “As such I have reviewed the city charter and council rules and see no violation or cause for council action based on our governing documents. I take Freddy for what I have seen since meeting him. In council chambers he’s hard working, community minded and a good team player.”
“Based on his work within the council, paying him the respect of council president offers him an opportunity to excel as a representative of the City of Ontario. He has attended more community events and council appearances than any other councilor and I commend him for those efforts,” Braden wrote.
Hart also noted that restraining order is not a criminal conviction.
“I nominated Councilman Rodriguez (for council president) due to his passion to make Ontario a better place for everyone (even on items that I may not always agree with him about) and his tenure on the council.”
Melendrez said, "I don’t have enough information to make a comment on this situation," adding that, "I truly had no knowledge of any ongoing allegations against Mr. Rodriguez."
“Mr. Rodriguez has always been helpful to me during my short time in city council when I have questions or need follow up information,” wrote Melendrez, who was at his first meeting as councilor when Rodriguez was named president.
News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.
SUPPORT OUR VITAL LOCAL WORK: We provide Malheur County the local journalism that searches out the facts for you. SUBSCRIBE FOR $5/month. Click HERE.