PLEASANTON -- A Livermore tax auditor pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges he repeatedly molested a 9-year-old boy -- more than two decades after his conviction on the same charge the year before he was hired by the state.

Timothy Rodriguez, 48, appeared silently in Judge Jacob Blea's courtroom, allowing defense attorney Jim Hollabaugh to enter his not-guilty plea and argue for a decrease in his $1 million bail.

Rodriguez, who for 23 years was employed as a tax auditor for the State Board of Equalization, was arrested Aug. 5 at his Livermore home after a 9-year-old boy prosecutors say "considered him a grandfather" detailed five incidents of alleged abuse since 2010.

Hollabaugh argued in August that Rodriguez, then on no-bail status, was entitled to bail because the nature of the crime was "nonviolent."

"Clearly, he was entitled to bail," Hollabaugh said in an interview Friday. "The prosecution was in error in saying that he could be held without bail. The question becomes what should the bail be?

"When you get into the area of sex cases, the definition (of violence) tends to change a little bit. It's kind of 'Alice in Wonderland' with definitions once you get into sex cases."

While a judge released the no-bail hold and set Rodriguez's bail at $1 million in August, a subsequent attempt to lower bail further Thursday was denied when Blea decided the allegations presented "a serious concern over the public's safety."

"He violated a position of trust to someone who considered him to be a father figure," argued deputy district attorney Sharon Carney, who noted that, by marriage, Rodriguez was a member of the accuser's family.

The boy described five incidents of sexual abuse beginning when he was 6 years old in 2010, three of which occurred in Livermore and two of which occurred in the boy's home out of state, court documents show. The boy said that in all five instances Rodriguez grabbed his hands and/or feet and rubbed them against his genitals.

In an attempt to lower his client's bail to $400,000, Hollabaugh presented a series of facts speaking to Rodriguez's character, including the fact that Rodriguez had been employed by the state since 1990 -- one year after he was convicted of molesting an 8-year-old in Fremont.

Pat McConahay, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Human Resources, noted that Rodriguez's criminal record was not necessarily ignored by the state in its decision to hire him less than a year after his molestation conviction. She said that a demonstrated set of principles, including integrity, trust and honesty, are required of all applicants seeking state service.

"Candidates not possessing those characteristics are not qualified and should be denied a state position," McConahay said.

The state does not perform background checks for every position it fills, McConahay said.

"Several positions require that criminal background checks be performed prior to hiring," McConahay said. "These include correctional officers, CHP officers, public safety dispatchers, consumer affairs investigators, Bureau of State Audits investigators, game wardens, parole agents and state hospital police officers."

McConahay added that many state positions require candidates to fill out a supplemental questionnaire regarding prior criminal history if it would have a direct impact on their work. Rodriguez's criminal conviction may have gone undisclosed on this document, given the low likelihood he would ever have to interact with children in his official capacity.

"His conviction was from 1989 -- that's some time ago," said Hollabaugh, who said that to his knowledge, Rodriguez served no prison time for the prior conviction. "My client is not accused of roaming the community assaulting minors."

Officials at the state Board of Equalization did not respond to a call about Rodriguez's current employment status.

Rodriguez will appear for a pretrial hearing Oct. 23 at the Gale-Schenone Hall of Justice. He remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail on $1 million bail.

Follow Erin Ivie at Twitter.com/erin_ivie.