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Pressure building on Munoz to resign after domestic-violence allegation

Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) leaves court after he pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor domestic battery charge involving his wife. | Andy Grimm for the Sun-Times

Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) leaves court in January after pleading not guilty to a misdemeanor domestic battery charge involving his wife. | Andy Grimm for the Sun-Times

Pressure mounted Thursday on retiring Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) to resign immediately after being accused of domestic violence, but Munoz is refusing to quit.

Newly-elected Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a longtime Munoz friend and political mentor, urged the 25-year veteran alderman to cut short a term that will end in May, when the new City Council is sworn in. Munoz is not seeking re-election.

“He should resign. It’s best for him and all of the attention it is getting,” Garcia said Thursday.

“Obviously, we see where alcoholism has affected someone and has damaged their life. It has an effect on many people — his family and his constituents.”

Just last week, Garcia’s chief-of-staff resigned in the wake of a New York Times story detailing the account of a female staffer who worked with Bill Velazquez on Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and said he “laughed” after she brought a complaint to him about being sexually harassed.

That’s apparently why Garcia moved quickly to urge Munoz to resign immediately, as painful as that may be considering their longstanding friendship and close political alliance.

“It’s also the best thing for everyone in politics who is a progressive. It would show a sensitivity to the principles that many of us got into politics and engage in politics for,” Garcia said.

Last summer, Munoz became the latest in a string of City Council veterans to announce his political retirement. As his replacement, he endorsed 22nd Ward Democratic Committeeman Mike Rodriguez.

Earlier this week, three of the candidates running against Rodriguez stood outside Munoz’s ward office in Little Village to demand the retiring alderman’s immediate exit.

On Thursday, Rodriguez joined them — even though it meant turning on his political mentor.

“I am devastated by Ald. Muñoz’s actions, and am continuing to pray for Betty Torres-Munoz, whom I have known and worked with for many years,” Rodriguez was quoted as saying in an emailed statement.

“The news that Ald. Muñoz has checked into a treatment facility and is seeking the professional help he clearly needs is a positive step. Still, there is no place in public office for people who perpetuate domestic abuse. He should resign his position and focus on his recovery.”

Munoz has checked into an Indiana rehab center, where he plans to spend the next four weeks. He refused to respond to his wife’s explosive allegations during a brief phone conversation with the Chicago Sun-Times between classes.

But, in a text message, the most senior member of the City Council’s Hispanic and Progressive caucuses made it clear that he has no intention of cutting short a term that will end in May.

“My office is functioning. My staff are serving the residents of the 22nd Ward. And I’m going to continue my life in public service,” Munoz wrote.

“I love helping people and I love building stuff. Operative word is continue.”

Last week, Munoz was charged with a misdemeanor count of domestic battery after a domestic-violence incident involving his wife on New Year’s Eve. Munoz pleaded not guilty and is free on bond.

In a petition seeking an order of protection, granted by a Cook County judge, Betty Torres-Munoz claims she feared not only physical abuse at the hands of her husband but threats from gang members connected to him.

“Ricardo has connections (with) local gangs (and) individuals with criminal pasts who … have threatened my family in the past,” Betty Torres-Munoz wrote on the form she filled out last Wednesday, seeking a court order barring Munoz from having contact with her, the couple’s 16-year-old dog or visiting the Little Village home they shared.

In her petition, Torres-Munoz said she and her husband “engaged in a [heated] argument” and that Munoz “forcibly” grabbed her and pushed her backward, causing her to hit her back and head, and twist her arm.

In the filing, and later in response to questions from reporters who surrounded her as she left the courthouse, Torres-Munoz said her husband had been abusive previously, and she accused him of being an “addict” and a “womanizer.”

Her petition also asks to block Munoz from tampering with the couple’s bank accounts, and claims Munoz has spent “thousands” on his “addiction, whores, hotels, travel” and the prescription drug Viagra. Torres-Munoz also asks for $1,000 child-support payments each month.

Torres-Munoz did not elaborate on the threats from gang members she mentioned in the petition.

The New Year’s Eve incident is only the latest in a string of controversies to surround Munoz from the outset of his a 25-year City Council career.

In 1993, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley took a chance on Munoz, then a 27-year-old with a checkered past.

Munoz was “affiliated” with a gang that terrorized Little Village. He was hanging out on street corners, a self-described “neighborhood thug and hustler.” Three times, Munoz had pleaded guilty to charges of cocaine possession or unlawful use of a weapon.

Six months before the 2011 aldermanic election, Munoz declared himself an alcoholic and said he had checked himself into an outpatient rehab clinic.