Ontario City Councilor Freddy Rodriguez and Mayor Riley Hill in Ontario June 4. (Rachel Parsons/The Enterprise)
ONTARIO - The Ontario City Council has performed poorly and citizen view of Ontario city government is deteriorating over issues related to Councilor Freddy Rodriguez, according to results of an online survey.
And nearly 9 out of 10 people who participated in the survey think Rodriguez should resign.
The survey drew participation from 410 people before it closed Sunday evening. The survey was intended to gauge local sentiment about Rodriguez and the city council. The majority of participants reported they lived in Ontario with others listing themselves in Nyssa or Vale. More than 200 offered comments in the anonymous survey.
Rodriguez has become a lightning rod in the community, his conduct a topic of statements to the council in recent meetings. Two former mayors and four former city councilors from Ontario last week presented the city council a letter urging action. In a previous council session, seven citizens implored councilors to remove Rodriguez from his council president slot and from city committees.
The city council has taken no action and councilors have not responded during council sessions to the growing controversy. Councilors have limited legal authority to remove a sitting councilor.
“The mayor and council have shown lack of leadership in this matter and calls in to question their ability to lead the community,” one survey respondent wrote.
“It’s disappointing as a young, female professional who is new to Ontario, to see the lack of concern and action in regards to this councilman,” said one participant. “It would appear that the council cares more about their “good ol boys” club than the safety of women in their community.”
Another respondent said, “I am a student at Ontario high school. I have been bullied. I am sad that the mayor supports a bully. I hope to run for city government someday so that I can show people that people in government cannot support bullies.”
According to the survey, 79% of respondents believe the council’s performance has been “poor” and 11% find it “fair.” Just 2% find councilors have been “good” or “excellent” in handling the matter while 8% had no opinion.
The view of Ontario city government clearly has suffered. Some 82% of respondents said their view of government “diminished” as a result of the Rodriguez matter. Another 15% said their opinion was the same while two respondents said their opinion had improved.
Nine out of 10 respondents said elected city officials should live within the city. There have been efforts in the community in recent years to require employees and leaders of local government, from the city to the Ontario School District, to live within the jurisdictions.
Questions have emerged about where Rodriguez calls home. He said in a statement last week that he maintains residences in the city and out in the country. He didn’t respond to questions from the Enterprise seeking to clarify where is his primary home, though he said in a court proceeding recently that he lived in a trailer that is parked in a rural RV park.
Most respondents to the survey left no doubt they felt he should be gone from the council. Rodriguez didn't respond to written questions about the results and his current living circumstances.
Some 88% percent said they support a recall while 5% would oppose and 7% had no opinion. A petition drive is underway now to gather signatures to force a citywide vote on removing Rodriguez from office.
Asked whether Rodriguez should instead resign, 90% responded yes while 4% said no and 6% had no opinion.
“The ongoing problems with this person's behavior and defensive attitude is appalling,” said one respondent. “The council would be better served by someone who can lead by example. Mr. Rodriguez needs to bow out and re-evaluate his life choices.”
Another wrote, “Respecting his elected position and his duty to serve the citizens of Ontario, his best option is to resign.”
One respondent urged caution.
“The accusations should be looked into before further action is taken,” the respondent wrote.” “People are so quick to condemn people on hearsay anymore, convicting people in the court of public opinion before all the facts are even established.”
Survey results showed that 77% of those participating live in the Ontario zip code, 9% in Nyssa, and 7% in Vale.
Contact the Malheur Enterprise news team by email to [email protected]
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