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State official faces charge

December 08, 2007|Michael Rothfeld | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO -- A high-ranking commissioner at the state parole board, which makes decisions about whether criminals should remain in prison, is on the job 11 days after he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol at 2 a.m. in a state-owned vehicle, state corrections officials said Friday.

Robert T. Rodriguez, 57, an associate chief deputy commissioner for the Central Valley, had a blood-alcohol content double the legal limit, police said.

Riding as a passenger was the parole board's top official, chief executive John Monday, an appointee of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

After the incident became public in a report on the Sacramento Bee's website Friday, officials at the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said they were investigating both Rodriguez and Monday. Both men were to continue in their posts pending the outcome, officials said. Neither could be reached for comment.

Oscar Hidalgo, a spokesman for the corrections department, said its investigators Thursday had obtained the police report of the Nov. 27 arrest and were still in a "fact-finding" phase.

The arrest occurred after the two men had conducted a program hours before with inmates at a women's prison in Chowchilla. Bill Sessa, another spokesman for the corrections agency, said they were stopped by police later while returning to their hotel from a restaurant.

Monday did not believe his colleague was intoxicated, Sessa said.

But police said that at about 2 a.m., a patrol officer noticed that the car Rodriguez was driving was straddling the center dividing line of a two-lane road and crossing to the other side, police said.

"This vehicle was clearly viewed by the officer as being in the oncoming traffic lane," said Lt. Bimley West of the Merced Police Department.

After the officer stopped the car, he smelled alcohol on Rodriguez and in the car, and administered a sobriety test, which Rodriguez failed, West said. Rodriguez later took a blood test that showed his blood-alcohol content to be 0.16%, double the legal limit, West said.

Monday, whose sobriety was not checked, took a taxi from the scene and left the car at the side of the road. The next day, after Rodriguez spent a night in jail, they returned to retrieve the vehicle, Hidalgo said.

Rodriguez, who earns about $100,000 a year, has worked for the department for more than 30 years and oversees 11 deputy commissioners, Hidalgo said.

Monday, 56, who has worked in a variety of correctional posts, recently was confirmed by the state Senate to his current position, which pays nearly $112,000 a year.

"We expect responsible behavior from our appointees," said Aaron McLear, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger, in a statement. "After the investigation is complete we will take whatever actions are appropriate."

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michael.rothfeld@latimes.com

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