"Rodriguez said, 'We are just going to put the lid on this; we're going to just let it go,' " says Bruce Kapsack, the OCC's staff attorney, who attended a meeting with the commissioner and other OCC staffers a few days after the theft.
The aborted police inquiry centered on the apparent theft of a computer printer and camera, which were missing and assumed stolen from the offices of the OCC, the civilian police oversight agency. The theft -- of an $800 Hewlett-Packard laser jet printer and a $300 Pentax 35mm camera -- qualified as grand theft and occurred over the second weekend in June 1994. After an initial investigation by OCC staff, then-OCC Director Alfreda Davis Porter became the chief suspect.
Rodriguez, who serves as liaison to the OCC for the commission, most likely involved himself in the investigation because Porter was the suspect. At the time of the theft, Rodriguez was conducting a separate and informal inquiry into allegations of mismanagement and wrongdoing lodged by OCC staff against Porter. She had been accused of absenteeism, losing investigative files, and falsifying overtime claims. When Porter was asked to resign by the commission in 1994, she did.
I met with Rodriguez last week to discuss the charges against him. He insisted that commission secretary Lt. Manuel Barretta sit in even after I requested a one-on-one discussion. I was ushered into the Police Commission hearing room, and in the tense 40-minute meeting that followed, Rodriguez refused to comment on the allegations against him. "Until these sources can have the guts and integrity to come and make these charges to my face, I will not respond," Rodriguez said. "I'm not going to admit or deny anything."
Asked to explain his version of events, Rodriguez said, "I'm not going to talk about that." Asked why he didn't want to discuss the matter, he said, "I just won't."
The revelation that Rodriguez, a former cop and firefighter, may have meddled in a police investigation puts his good friend Mayor Jordan in a tough spot. Rodriguez and Jordan graduated from the police academy together in 1956 and served side by side in several district stations before Rodriguez resigned to join the Fire Department in 1962. Jordan appointed Rodriguez to the commission in 1992 as a reward for Rodriguez's work as head of security for the mayor's 1991 campaign.
OCC staff attorney Kapsack thinks Rodriguez intervened in the theft investigation out of reflex. "Rodriguez comes from the school of 'don't let your dirty laundry out, take care of it quietly,' " Kapsack says.
Discovering the printer and camera were missing, OCC chief investigator John Parker says he came to suspect Porter after checking the computer passwords entered into the alarm system and discovering that only Porter's code was used the weekend of the theft.
Parker says that he immediately turned his written and verbal report into the Police Department's internal affairs unit, the Management Control Division. Asked if he reported it to MCD because the suspect was Porter, Parker says, "Yes, yes, yes, of course." The information he handed over to MCD also pointed to Porter as the suspect.
"I was told by MCD that my report had been voided," Parker says. He would not name Rodriguez as the official who ordered the investigation stopped, but he did say, "It was someone larger than life."
Four sources with whom Parker talked about the incident say Parker told them that Rodriguez was the "larger than life" figure who ordered the inquiry stopped. Police commissioners have no legal authority to involve themselves in police investigations.
According to a source, Rodriguez informed Porter about the initial report to MCD. The source adds that Porter then called Parker and revealed intimate knowledge of his report to MCD, informing him that Rodriguez told her everything.
The source says Rodriguez then ordered Porter to make a report on the theft, this time to the Police Department's burglary unit. But Porter's report omitted the computer password information that made her a suspect in Parker's report to MCD. She stated in the report that the suspect was not known. (Porter could not be reached for comment.)
Porter's report, made almost two months after the theft, lists only the camera as missing. This reduced the dollar figure to $300, dropping the crime below the grand-theft threshold. Prior to Porter's report to police, the printer mysteriously showed up outside the front door of the OCC offices.
Kapsack says Rodriguez knew Porter was a suspect when he informed her of the MCD probe. "I was in meetings with Rodriguez and the city attorney when it was widely discussed that Porter was a suspect," he says, adding that those meetings took place no more than a week after the theft.
When I met with Rodriguez, I had not yet told him what I wanted to talk about. All the same, Rodriguez began the meeting by saying, "I guess you want to know about the OCC thing."
When I asked him how he knew what I wanted to discuss, Rodriguez claimed that I had told him. I had not.
Finally convinced that I didn't tell him about the focus of my story, Rodriguez said, "I just must have assumed you wanted to talk about the OCC thing. Why else would you call me?"
Rodriguez was defensive and abrupt throughout the meeting. Barretta took sparse notes during the meeting and assisted Rodriguez numerous times when the commissioner was unable to answer questions.
Rodriguez said he's more than willing to air the charges against him at the commission. "[Anyone] can come here and say what they believe, and I won't do anything to retaliate.