Pimpin’s Easy, City Council Elections Are Super Hard
By Jesse B. Gill
That includes folks who have been accused of committing felonies but haven’t yet been convicted or exonerated.
Such is the case with Mike Rios, who this week filed documents with the Moreno Valley City Clerk’s Office, declaring his intention to run for City Council. What makes this news is that Rios is already serving on the city’s Board of Education. Also, he’s facing some pretty serious felony charges – pimpin’, pandering, rape and attempted murder.
The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office currently has two open cases against Rios. He’s set to appear in court Aug. 10 for preliminary hearings in both cases.
If convicted of any of the charges against him, Rios, 42, would face serious prison time, which is a lot of pressure for a guy who’s about to hit the campaign trail for a third time in four years.
“There’s corruption on the council and that’s what I want to stop and I can’t do that from the school board,” he told me Thursday in a remarkably candid phone conversation.
We’ll get to the corruption stuff later…it’ll be important.
Rios first began making appearances on the evening news when he started getting arrested. On his blog, he maintains that his arrests are nothing more than your run-of-the-mill political assassination attempts, orchestrated by folks who want no part of the house-cleaning he wants to subject the City Council to.
Riverside County sheriff’s deputies first arrested Feb. 13 outside his home on Palm Shadows Drive in Moreno Valley. Rios is accused of shooting at two people outside the home. The shooting occurred after an argument Rios had earlier that night at a bar, according to a District Attorney’s statement. Nobody was injured in the shooting, but Rios was arrested and later charged with attempted murder. He was also charged with dissuading a witness, which is big no-no in the…well, everywere.
So at that point, Moreno Valley had a school board member charged with attempted murder.
Then, on April 1, deputies pulled Rios over in his big yellow Hummer and later arrested him. Three days later, prosecutors charged him a metric buttload of felonies – six counts of pandering, three counts of pimpin’ (it just seems wrong to spell it with the “ing”), and two counts of rape by force or fear.
Prosecutors accused Rios of convincing four women and two underage girls to work for him as prostitutes. The alleged rapes were with adult women, by the way.
Rios says the charges against him have not affected his ability to serve on the city’s school board, which is weird because a judge ordered him to have zero contact with children as a provision for his $1 million bail. Rios’ attorney — deputy public defender Michael Micallef – on May 8 tried to convince Judge Becky Dugan to modify the no contact order but, according to court records, prosecutors did that whole “I object” thing and Dugan sustained, meaning Rios isn’t supposed to have contact with kids until his cases are sorted out.
Despite the very serious charges Rios now faces, his intent to run for City Council wasn’t a surprise to anyone in Moreno Valley’s political scene.
Rios himself told me that he’s never made a secret of his plan to run for council in 2012. As soon as he failed to win in 2008, he made it clear to anyone who would listen that he’d be back.
The Democratic Club of Moreno Valley– an organization spearheading a recall effort to get Rios kicked off the school board for good – first caught Rios’ act in 2008, when he strolled into the club’s office and announced his intentions to run for council.
“We must have one of the most interesting first impressions of the gentleman,” said Ruthee Goldkarn, spokeswoman for the Democratic Club.
The Democratic Club endorses candidates for partisan elections (which a city council election is not). When the club informed Rios of this fact, along with the news that they would not be endorsing him, he stormed out, “huffy and pissed off,” Goldkarn said.
And Rios has been around ever since, trying to find a way onto the council, she said, despite the fact that, if elected to the council, he would have to vacate his school board seat in order to take the new gig, something that might upset his supporters.
But Rios says his supporters knew that was his plan from the get-go.
“I let all the voters know my intentions,” he said. “I did a grassroots campaign. I never had any money behind me.”
(A look at Rios’ campaign filings for his 2010 school board campaign shows he raised about $7,900.
Rios says his intention is to fight corruption on the council. He described, in very vague terms, a situation wherein council members are being controlled behind the scenes by a real estate developer that he refused to name.
“They’re doing backdoor deals with developers and the taxpayers end up footing the bill,” he said.
I pushed Rios to provide more specifics but he declined.
“They’re the ones behind what happened to me,” he said.
And when it comes to his criminal cases, Rios said that he’s been ordered by his attorney to not say anything.
The Democratc Club ofMorenoValleydoesn’t have a political axe to grind with Rios, Goldkarn said. The group is pushing its recall effort through simply as a public service.
“We took the temperature of the community before going through with it,” she said.
And the public, according to Goldkarn, was ready to see Rios take his leave of the school board and the recall effort was launched.
The club has gathered a few hundred signatures so far, Goldkarn said, which is way short of the 10,000 they’d need by mid-October if they want to recall Rios. But the big push for signatures will start in a few weeks when school starts up.
Rios admits to keeping his council campaign committee – named “Elect Mike Rios for City Council”—active after his 2008 defeat. In January, the name of the committee was changed to “Elect Mike Rios for City Council in 2012.”
A separate committee – named “Elect Mike Rios for School Board 2010” – was established in July 2010. In January, that committee was renamed “Elect Mike Rios for School Board 2014.”
So if looks like Rios plans to be around Moreno Valley politics for the foreseeable future. That is, of course, as long he beats the criminal charges against him.
Check “The Watch Dog” by Jesse B. Gill every Friday for the latest (and greatest) behind-the-scenes crime coverage in the Inland Empire.