Sex offender Ernest Rivas runs for reelection on hospital board

Ernest Rivas is shown in this 2010 booking photo from the San Benito County Jail.

Registered sex offender and health care district board member Ernest Rivas has declared candidacy for the November ballot in an attempt to gain reelection two years after admitting to a charge that he had sexual contact with a 16-year-old girl.

Rivas, 61, is running for a second term on the board for the San Benito Health Care District, which oversees Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital.

Police arrested Rivas in July 2009, days after the teenage girl reported the incident to authorities. Rivas, first elected to the hospital board in the fall of 2008, accepted a plea deal in April 2010. It lowered the initial molestation charge to a misdemeanor battery count that required his registration as a sex offender because the judge ruled he had committed the crime for “sexual gratification.”

He served 90 days of home confinement for taking the then-16-year-old girl on a motorcycle ride in July 2009 before, as police alleged, kissing her with his tongue while in Tres Pinos. He received three years of probation and cannot have contact with the victim.

Although his misdemeanor conviction does not preclude him from holding elected office, at least one candidate for the three open seats – four residents are running – called the board member’s choice to run again “embarrassing.”

Candidates on the ballot include incumbent board members Nazhat Parveen Sharma, Gordon Machado and Rivas – who did not immediately return a phone call – along with challenger Jim West.

“The whole system is built on trust,” said West, who finished fourth in the 2008 health district race for three open seats. “I don’t see how the average person could ever trust a representative if they found out he’s a registered sex offender. I was just appalled he would have the audacity.”

Look back for more.

Leave your comments