Ulster County Legislature Hector Rodriguez has been asked to resign from his position after a private investigation revealed a history of sexual harassment with female colleagues.
County Executive Pat Ryan released a statement on Oct. 4, revealing a private investigation had been completed on Rodriguez. Ryan urged the Ulster County Legislature to “take immediate action to publicly condemn Legislator Rodriguez’s behavior and use any and all other means available to them to ensure he is held accountable for his actions.”
The private investigation, which was done by the Albany law firm Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux, was encouraged by Kathleen (KT) Tobin after she received several complaints from women who had “stories of unwanted touching as well as persistent sexually suggestive and inappropriate communication, both written and verbal.”
This inappropriate behavior included “multiple reports of forcible kissing” and “several reports of relentless unwanted and inappropriate communications,” according to an email sent by Tobin to the Ulster County Legislature on March 29.
One woman who wished to remain anonymous told Tobin “This ongoing behavior has made going to him as a legislator — or even a peer — challenging to impossible if I am not in the right frame of mind with my defense shields up.”
On May 14, Tobin reached out to Ulster County Legislators via email requesting an investigation be held and the county sexual harassment policy and procedures be updated to the Village of New Paltz’s more intensive one.
“People who experience sexual harassment in political environments are disinclined to participate with or seek help from the people elected to represent them, and for people who have a related career, it interferes with their ability to actually do their jobs,” Tobin said in her March 29 email. “Harassment limits access to the political arena and threatens livelihoods… It’s bad for our communities and weakens our democracy.”
Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux released the findings of their investigation on Oct. 4, which included “interviews with Dr. Tobin, three Ulster County Legislators, and seven women who have been subjected to behaviors and conduct by Mr. Rodriguez that they found troubling and/or harassing.”
According to the investigation report, Rodriguez made comments to women such as “I thought you loved me,” “If I didn’t know better, I’d kiss you,” and “I won’t say the first thing that came to mind when I saw your picture today.”
The conclusion made by Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux was that “corrective action, including and up to requesting resignation, [should] be taken towards Mr. Rodriguez in an appropriate form as allowed by the law.”
“I consider public service among the highest of callings, whether it be serving our nation in the armed forces or serving our citizens as an elected official,” Ryan said in his Oct. 4 statement. “As such, public servants — and especially elected officials — must hold themselves to the absolute highest standards of integrity and professional conduct in order to safeguard the public’s trust.”
The Village of New Paltz also released a statement on Oct. 4 supporting the resignation of Rodriguez.
According to the Village’s statement, “[Rodriguez’s] conduct is far beneath what the public rightly expects and deserves from their elected representatives.”
Rodriguez has been removed from all committees except one, which is all that is within the power of Chairwoman Tracey Bartels. Since he is an elected official, the only way for Rodriguez to be removed from office is if he resigns himself.
According to a Daily Freeman article, Rodriguez announced in February that he is not running for re-election and does not plan on resigning, saying “We have three months remaining in this term, we have a budget to pass and I look forward to carrying out the people’s business for the remaining three months.”
Rodriguez did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.