Where goest Hector?
Last week’s findings by country labor relations lawyers regarding Hector Rodriguez’s alleged cringe-worthy behavior toward women, first revealed last winter, would have resulted in “summary dismissal” were the retiring New Paltz legislator a member of the executive branch. But he’s not.
County Democratic chairman Frank Cardinale, six months after similar allegations were aired against Rodriguez, did take summary action in dismissing him from his positions on the county and state committees and calling for his “immediate resignation” from office.
At the time Cardinale issued that ringing, if belated, declaration, Rodriguez had exactly 91 days left in a 16-year legislative career. Rodriguez says he’s not going anywhere before Dec. 31.
Speaking of cringe-worthy. Rodriguez’s colleagues, ten of whom are women, and more than a few women’s rights advocates, will, over the next three months, have to deal in close proximity with a legislator credibly accused of hitting on women and then using his influence in an attempt to punish those who resisted.
It should be noted that none of the allegations against Rodriguez, to which he has essentially pleaded ignorance of widely accepted norms of common decency, constitute high crimes and misdemeanors. It should.
While county executive Pat Ryan spoke out forcefully in urging the legislature to “condemn” Rodriguez for his alleged misdeeds, silence from the lambs in the legislature has been deafening. Sure, legislature chairwoman Tracy Bartels removed Rodriguez from his committee chairmanship last winter, but still left him in his $14,000 a year job. Nary a word was heard until the special investigating, ordered by Ryan shortly after he took office in June, was released last week.
The question swirling around the county office building is whether the legislature has the power to remove a member for cause. I suspect that since the executive’s accusation of “grave mistrust of public trust” press release went no further than calling for his “condemnation” (a form of severe censure), the legislature lacks the power of removal. Maybe they’re heard enough about impeachment on the national level.
But they could do it, if they had a mind to. Legislatures can adopt their own standards of member conduct and if this legislature were really committed to protecting women against would-be hitmen, they could easily promulgate such rules to include “use of public office to influence or coerce,” at their next meeting on Oct. 15. A simple motion from the floor at their regular would do it.