After serving Ulster County nearly a decade, Legislator Hector Rodriguez has decided to not seek re-election. Of the factors that weighed in on this decision, the most controversial is that of allegations made against him for inappropriate behavior.
On Feb. 6, Rodriguez, who serves as the Legislator to the town and village of New Paltz, announced that he would not seek re-election to the district, commenting on Facebook that the position has taken a “personal toll.” One week later, Rodriguez made an apology for making women feel uncomfortable from his interactions with them.
“I am sorry. I offer no excuse, nor any defense,” wrote the legislator on his Facebook page which has since been removed from the social media site. “I am still learning the details at this time about those who I may have offended or hurt.”
On Feb. 13, the same day Rodriguez posted his apology on Facebook, a special report was broadcasted on Radio Kingston with Hillary Harvey where Rodriguez addressed again that he was not aware who he had hurt.
“I heard through the grapevine that there were some people that I had hurt,” Rodriguez said in the recorded interview with Harvey. Rumors of the allegations began to move around last December. “I’m largely here to listen,” he said, noting that he was interested in learning who he had hurt and how so that he could correct the situation.
In addition to the decision to not run for re-election, the eight-term democrat may also lose his seat as chairman of the Economic Development, Tourism, Housing, Planning and Transit Committee. He was nominated to the position by Ulster County Legislature Chairwoman Tracey Bartels, who is reconsidering the appointment.
“I’m reviewing it in the lens of these allegations, and in the lens of this body’s ability to do our business,” said Bartels in a report from the Daily Freeman. As of the time of this report, no decision has been made by Bartels on the matter.
Bartels is also surveying the policies on ethics, sexual harassment and workplace violence and if they can be modernized in light of the recent allegations.
“I’m beginning internally and then I’m going to reach out to the acting county executive to talk to personal about and figure out to begin to look for change,” said Bartels.
She also noted that she would be reaching out to the Dutchess County Legislature to seek out their policies. On Jan. 22 Democratic Legislator Joe Tyner resigned from his position amid sexual harassment allegations against him.
Rodriguez was previously a frontrunner for the position of Legislature Chair, but pulled his nomination back. In his interview with Radio Kingston he said that “it was quite clear I could not get 12 votes.”
No information on the allegations against Rodriguez have been made public. Rodriguez was unable to be reached for comment in time for print.
0:50- “I’m largely here to listen,” said Rodriguez during a interview on Radio Kingson WKNY 1490 AM.
3:45- “I heard through the grapevine that there were some people that I had hurt,” said Rodriguez.
10:00- “I removed my name because it was quite clear I could not get 12 votes,” said Rodriguez.
KINGSTON, N.Y. — Ulster County Legislature Chairwoman Tracey Bartels said Friday that she is reconsidering her appointment of Legislator Hector Rodriguez as chairman of the Economic Development, Tourism, Housing, Planning and Transit Committee in light of recent allegations that he behaved inappropriately toward women.
“I’m reviewing it in the lens of these allegations, and in the lens of this body’s ability to do our business,” Bartels said.
She also said she is looking into whether the Legislature can conduct its own investigation into the allegations against the veteran lawmaker, as well as whether the county needs to update its sexual harassment policies and training programs.
Bartels’ comments follow a call last week by Legislator Heidi Haynes for Bartels, acting County Executive Adele Reiter and the Ulster County Board of Ethics to determine if the allegations against Rodriguez, D-New Paltz, warrant sanctions or a criminal investigation.
“As elected officials, we must set a higher standard to fight against unwelcomed sexual advances and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature,” said Haynes, C-Marbletown. “These recent allegations are serious. We need to send a clear message that this behavior will not be tolerated within our county.”
Legislature Minority Leader Ken Ronk echoed Haynes’ call for an investigation and said it is “incumbent” on Bartels to review Rodriguez’s committee chairmanship.
“I don’t pass any judgment here on Legislator Rodriguez on what did or didn’t happen, but I think that what’s come forward so far is enough to warrant an investigation,” said Ronk, R-Wallkill.
“In this day and age, these accusations that have been made are serious, and as a Legislature, we need to get to the bottom of it,” Ronk said. “I think that Chairwoman Bartels would be the proper person to initiate an investigation.”
Bartels, a nonenrolled voter from Gardiner who caucuses with Democrats, said she is looking at the county’s rules, ethics law, sexual harassment policy and training programs to determine if there are actions the Legislature can take and if existing policies can be improved.
But she said she’s uncertain whether the county charter gives the body the authority to conduct an investigation into the allegations.
“I’m not sure that [an investigation] would be in furtherance of our legislative function,” she said. “I’m not sure I see the authority in the charter as it’s written, but I’ll review that as well.”
Bartels said while no one has lodged a formal complaint with the Legislature against Rodriguez, she takes the allegations “very seriously.”
“I’m in the process of reviewing our policies and procedures on this subject,” Bartels said. “I’m weighing all the Legislature’s and my options, and I’m looking seriously at all the policies and programs we have in place.”
In late December, stories began to circulate that women in the community were complaining that Rodriguez had behaved inappropriately toward them.
Village of New Paltz Deputy Mayor KT Tobin said she was one of them and that the legislator had “boundary issues” early on in the time that she knew him.
Tobin said she also has heard from women who felt that Rodriguez used his position as a county legislator to pursue them and would shut them out if they rejected him.
On Feb. 6, Rodriguez announced on Facebook that he would not run for a ninth two-year term this fall. On. Feb. 13, he issued a public apology on Facebook for “my communication with women [that] in several circumstances was inappropriate.”
Since then, Rodriguez has taken down his Facebook page and has not attended legislative meetings.
He also has not returned a reporter’s phone calls and text messages.
KINGSTON, N.Y. — Just days after announcing he would not seek re-election, Ulster County Legislator Hector Rodriguez posted an apology on Facebook Wednesday evening for communicating with women in a way that “made them uncomfortable.”
“I am sorry. I offer no excuse, nor any defense,” he wrote.
The eight-term New Paltz Democrat didn’t provide details in his post about any interactions other than to say “my communication with women in several circumstances was inappropriate.”
“I am still learning the details at this time about those I may have offended or hurt,” Rodriguez wrote.
“Part of my challenge is that while I am not yet totally aware of who I’ve made uncomfortable and many of the specifics of how I have done so, right now I need to acknowledge my own behavior and how I will address it moving forward,” he added. “… I am still learning the details at this time about those I may have offended or hurt.”
Stories have been circulating in the community for weeks about Rodriguez possibly having inappropriate interactions with women.
Rodriguez, who was minority of the Legislature from 2016 to 2018, was viewed by many as the natural choice of Democrats to become Legislature chairman this year as the party assumed control of the body. But he withdrew his name from consideration on the eve of the Legislature’s Jan. 7 vote for a new leader, and Legislator Tracey Bartels, a nonenrolled voter who has aligned with Democrats, was elected to the position.
“I do feel … some of his friends [in the Legislature] realized some of this was going to cause him to be distracted,” Legislator Kathy Nolan said last week.
Nolan, D-Shandaken, said she was among those who had heard allegations about Rodriguez, but she also said she never was shown any proof that he acted inappropriately.
“I have not been a part of the inner group that has received a direct complaint,” Nolan said. “I am aware that there are some rumors that are circulating, and I think it is quite appropriate for people who hear those rumors to seek information.
She suggested that Rodriguez “would do well to start with the things that are at least known to some people.”
Other Democratic legislators, including Majority Leader Jonathan Heppner of Woodstock, said only that they had not been approached by anyone making allegations against Rodriguez.
On Jan. 23, the Freeman filed a request under the state Freedom of Information Law for copies of all emails between county legislators in which Rodriguez’s nomination to be chairman were discussed. That request has not yet been filled by the Ulster County Clerk’s Office.
On Feb. 6, Rodriguez announced on Facebook that he would not run for a ninth two-year term as a legislator, saying the position “took a personal toll on me for many years” and that he was “looking forward to taking time after this term to take stock and live a better life.”
Rodriguez has not returned several telephone calls and text messages since Feb. 6 about his decision to not run for re-election and about the rumors that were circulating.
He did not attend the Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee meeting or the Democratic caucus on Wednesday.
“I have a great deal of work in front of me,” he wrote in his Wednesday post. “I am working with a few women friends to help me understand how to move forward. I am committed to listening, to apologize for what I’ve done, but to also use a restorative justice process if the people I’ve hurt or have offended wish to.
“I am not making any further comment at this time,” he concluded. “It is my hope that those that I’ve hurt feel comfortable, in whatever fashion works for them, to reach out to me, directly or indirectly. I am grateful to the women who I have hurt who are working through this with me, and recognize that not all of these women will want to interact with me, and I respect that.”
Rodriguez is the second legislator in the region to have accusations of inappropriate behavior toward women lodged against him.
On Jan. 22, Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner, D-Clinton, resigned amid allegations that he had sexually harassed women for decades.
KINGSTON, N.Y. — Veteran Ulster County Legislator Hector Rodriguez says he won’t run for a ninth term.
In an Facebook post late Wednesday, Rodriguez, D-New Paltz, said the position “took a personal toll on me for many years.”
“I’m looking forward to taking time after this term to take stock and live a better life,” he wrote. “This role took a personal toll on me for many years. I’m hopeful for the next phase of life after the next 11 months.
“I have more changes ahead of me,” he added, “but I look forward to the challenge.”
Rodriguez first was elected to the Legislature in 2003. During his time in office, he has served in a number of leadership positions, including minority leader from 2016 to 2018.
“When I started in 2003, the county was faced with a law-enforcement facility it could ill afford, skyrocketing tax increases, and little by the way of economic development or environmental protection,” Rodriguez said. “Working with my colleagues, we changed that. We even wrote a charter and changed the whole government.
“Its time for a new generation to pick up the mantle,” he said.
Rodriguez’s decision comes less than a month after his unsuccessful bid to become chairman of the Legislature. Although Rodriguez emerged as the frontrunner, he was not the unanimous choice of the Democratic caucus. The day before the full Legislature was to pick a new chairman, Democrats who control the 23-member body instead backed Tracey Bartels, a Gardiner legislator who is not enrolled in any political party but has aligned herself with Democrats.
AUDIO From Feb. 26 w/ Chair of Ulster County Legislature Tracey Bartels (ZOOM 8)
Q: Follow up on HR situation, policies on alleged sexual harassment, are you planning any changes in light of what’s going on?
A:In terms of existing policies, we do have a sexual harassment in the workplace policy, and we have annual training. I’m looking into broader scope of policies and I’m looking into updating them. We also have an ethics policy which I’m looking to revamp.
Q: Is there training to combat sexual harassment for all county legislators?
A: “It’s not just Legislators, it’s all county employees. Legislators often do it together, they schedule it in the chambers and I want to say it’s done annually. It’s sexual harassment, workplace violence its a whole selection based on corporate compliance. That’s what I was saying earlier, we should be looking to update that training. It’s fine, but it could probably be modernized. That’s something I’m going to be talking to personal as well.
Q: Where would constituents, campaign workers or activists go to complain to the legislature, in terms of sexual harassment? Where would they go?
A: That is a good question, and it’s a question we have to answer in terms of – I don’t know if we have something in place currently. (Looking into policies now, on her desk currently)
COMMENTARY ON RULE REVISION AND REACHING OUT TO Dutchess County…
“The last substantial revision was three years ago.”
Q:What’s the timeline on this?
A: I believe that legislature Donaldson chair of laws and rules has called for a special meeting and to potentially even look at the rules. It was one of our initial discussion-…. in terms of the rest of the policies that’s something that I’m beginning internally and then I’m going to reach out to the acting county executive to talk to personal about and figure out to begin to look for change.
Q: Have you made any decision about HR Chairing the Economic Development Committee?
A: Not yet.
5 minutes in-
Q:How do you tell NP women students how to cope with the allegations made against their representative?
A: In terms of how to cope, HR has committed to a process, but I’m not sure how that process would be effectuated because it’s not something that is happening here on the sixth floor. I take all allegations, and this legislature will take all allegations seriously.