NORWALK — Although City Councilman Marcial (Rod) Rodriguez never officially entered the 63rd Assembly District race, he officially announced he was not going to run--using a city press release prepared by city staff members on city time.
Rodriguez, a second-term councilman, last month told The Times that he intended to run in the district's Democratic primary this June. He changed his mind this month, before he ever took any formal steps to become a primary contender.
Rodriguez says he decided he needed to get the word out that he would not be waging a state political campaign, so he asked the city information officer to write a press release for him. Information Officer Gary R. Brackle said he spent about 45 minutes preparing the Feb. 2 release, distributed on city stationery to area newspapers and city department heads.
More than a page long, the release said that Rodriguez chose not to run for "personal family medical reasons." It lists several community projects that Rodriguez will continue to work on because he is retaining his elected office in the city.
Council Career Detailed
"I feel it is important for me to remain on and contribute to the future of this great city," Rodriguez stated in the release.
Three paragraphs are devoted to the details of his council career, his civic activities and his family. He is described as the "top vote-getter" in the 1986 City Council election, when he was elected to a second, four-year term.
Rodriguez last week said it was entirely appropriate for him to announce his non-candidacy through official city channels. "I hold a political office, I'm an elected official, and I think the people of the city deserve to know (about my political plans)."
"I have yet to hear anybody complain," he added, terming The Times' query about the release "asinine . . . I don't believe it."
Brackle and his boss, Bob Avenatti, who helped Brackle prepare the release, said Rodriguez's state political plans affected his council tenure and were thus city business.
"I guess I don't have any hesitation about the whole thing because we are not promoting a candidate who is currently involved in a race," Brackle said last week.
"We thought it was in the interests of the community to let people know he wasn't a candidate," said Avenatti, director of city recreational services.
But Councilwoman Grace Napolitano condemned Rodriguez's use of an official city press release, calling it "wrong."
Fund Use Questioned
"I am very adamantly against that. I feel it's misusing taxpayers' funds by using paid city employees," Napolitano said in an interview.
During the 1986 council election, Napolitano filed a complaint with the state Fair Political Practices Commission about one of Rodriguez's campaign mailers. Rodriguez subsequently agreed to pay the commission a $1,000 fine for failing to properly label a campaign letter mailed to more than 7,000 Norwalk homes in January, 1986.
Although the letter contained campaign material, it did not indicate that Rodriguez's reelection committee was the source of the letter. Instead it identified the sender as the Office of the Mayor. Rodriguez was mayor at the time.
Although Napolitano says Rodriguez should apologize for the recent press release, she was unsure what, if any, action she would take on the matter. "I've got to look into it."