Ontario City Council President Freddy Rodriguez at a March 4 meeting. (Liliana Frankel/The Enterprise)
3/10: This post was updated with comments from Cydney Cooke.
ONTARIO – An Ontario woman Tuesday filed a petition to recall Ontario City Council President Freddy Rodriguez.
Cydney Cooke, who ran for city council in 2018 but did not win a seat, gave several reasons for the petition, including: Rodriguez’s two active restraining orders for domestic violence, his behavior on social media, and his behavior in a March 4 City Council meeting.
Cooke also indicated her suspicion that Rodriguez had violated a city ordinance regarding council interference with administrative services, referring to a social media post Rodriguez made about his communication with Police Chief Steven Romero.
“That one rule is the only rule in the charter that councilmembers are not supposed to do is interfere with any administrative services,” said Cooke.
Cooke said that there were no hard feelings between herself and Rodriguez regarding the 2018 election.
“I, like many citizens, was touched by Councilor Rodriguez’s story of constantly battling homelessness, while being a single father. I actually voted for him,” she said. “He is not the reason he was chosen over I. It’s the citizens who made that the decision, and we both amicably respected that.”
She said the councilors' inaction on Rodriguez's “personal issues” is troubling.
“He has no support from them to help him guide and maneuver through this situation better,” she said. “Instead it’s like they’re egging him on, and it’s just not a good look for the city.”
Cooke said that she appreciated Rodriguez’s commitment to transparency and sharing city information through his social media – an effort which, she pointed out, other councilors have not made.
“Nobody, I feel, hates or dislikes Freddy Rodriguez as a person. They are hurt by some of the things they’re reading about in the papers. They are hurt by some of things they’re seeing, they are hurt by some of the action he’s taking and they are hurt by the council allowing this to persist,” she said.
“I just want it to be very clear that this all done out of the care, love and respect for all the councilors,” she added.
Rodriguez was the target of another recall effort last year, but that ended when petitioners concluded they couldn't gather enough signatures in time.
The filing of the petition is the first step in a long process that Cooke and her allies must undertake in order to successfully recall Rodriguez. They have 90 days - until Monday, June 7 – to collect a minimum of 494 certified signatures from Ontario registered voters. That number is equal to 15% of all votes cast in the electoral district for governor during the last election.
Cooke would then have to turn them in to City Recorder Tori Barnett, who would certify the documents before sending them to County Clerk Gayle Trotter. Trotter would be responsible for certifying the signatures in a process identical to that used to determine ballot validity in an election.
“That would be going through and checking the signature to make sure it matches the voter registration card,” said Trotter. Voters’ registered addresses would also be compared to make sure they match the address given in the signature.
After all signatures are certified by Trotter’s office, Rodriguez would be contacted and can either resign or submit his own statement for the election.
If he doesn't resign, a special election would be held within 35 days.
Barnett and Trotter said that they could not recall an instance in which a local recall effort succeeded.
“(Never) to my knowledge, and I’ve been here 26 years,” said Barnett.
The recall is just the latest in a series of citizen-led actions to try to remove Rodriguez from public office. Last Thursday, seven Ontario citizens showed up at a city council meeting and used the public comment section to call for him to step down or be removed from his seat by his colleagues.
This Thursday, March 11, Rodriguez will appeal the second of his two active restraining orders in Malheur County Circuit Court at 2 p.m.
News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.
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