More ‘Pay to Play’ in Santa Ana – Michele Martinez in hot water over Station District vote

Councilwoman Michele Martinez

On June 7, 2010, Councilwoman Michele Martinez made the motion that paved the way for the continuation of the City’s stalled Station District Redevelopment Project. Mayor Pulido, Council members Alvarez and Sarmiento abstained from participating in discussions about, and voting on, the matter due to conflicts. In order for the project to move forward, all four remaining members of the Council had to vote in favor of moving the project forward. The resolution passed on a 4-0 vote.

Here is the problem for Councilmember Martinez, and potentially the entire Station District project. Councilmember Martinez should not have voted on, or participated in the discussion of, this item because she also had a conflict.

As posted on the city website:

After an extensive Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process, the Santa Ana Community Redevelopment Agency last year, selected Related California/Griffin Realty Corporation as the master developer for the Station District, a 94-acre area anchored by the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center and numerous parcels the Agency/City have acquired over the past 10 years along the Santa Ana Boulevard corridor. The selected team consists of Related Companies and Griffin Realty as co-lead managers, City Ventures for the for-sale housing component, Shaheen Sadeghi (retail developer of such projects at The Lab and The Camp in Costa Mesa), William Hezmalhalch Architects (designer of Santiago Lofts), Patricia Smith (streetscape and urban design), Fusco Engineering, and Green Dinosaur (green building consultant).  Collectively they bring tremendous experience in all facets of development, and equally as important, is their proven ability to secure financing for major projects, even in today’s difficult economic climate. 

Related/Griffin will be partnering with the City in carrying out the City’s vision for the Station District.  This corridor is a key connection from the I-5 freeway into the Downtown, and will also serve as a major transportation link for the planned Go Local street car system.  They are currently assisting with the planning and development of 48 parcels under the ownership of the Agency/City with a range of housing to meet the needs of our community, while considering the larger 94-acre district in the planning process.  The proposed concept plan for the first phase (48 parcels) includes for sale and rental housing of varied types, as well as a community center and open space.  It is hoped that entitlements for the first phase can be received by June 2010 so we can move forward on our affordable housing goals and neighborhood improvement effort.

Michele Martinez cast the 4th and needed yes vote to give roughly $40 million in land and redevelopment $$$ to Related California/Griffin Realty Corporation as the master developer for the Station District. According to her campaign finance report for the period ending June 30, 2010, she received a $500 campaign contribution from Griffin Realty Corporation on April 2, 2010. Now it’s not like Martinez was unaware of who the principals of Related California and Griffin Realty are, as is evident from this Orange County Register report from August 18, 2009:

The two companies “are going to do a fabulous job,” Councilwoman Michele Martinez said, shortly after the council voted with little discussion to select the Related/Griffin team.

“They will go out to the community and provide what’s needed, and that’s community engagement,” Martinez said. The two companies, she added, want to provide “truly a dream for that neighborhood.”

Unfortunately if this doesn’t look like pay to play, what followed in the next few weeks makes it rather clear that Councilwoman Martinez sold her vote for the project.

On June 15, 2010, Martinez reports a $500 contribution from William Witte, the President of Related California. On June 25th, Martinez reports a second $500 contribution from Griffin Realty. On June 30th, Martinez reported a second $500 contribution from William Witte.  In total Martinez accepted $2,000 in campaign contributions from the developers running the Station District Redevelopment Project. $1,500 of those contributions came within 30 days of her illegal vote to move the project forward.

So here we have our second example of “Pay to Play” on the Santa Ana City Council. Councilman Sal Tinajero may have dirty hands for accepting money for lowering soccer parking fees, Councilwoman Michele Martinez has two violations hanging over her head. Now I’m sure Martinez will probably try to say that City staff should apprised her of the conflict, but since she had not reported the contributions until the end of July, it would have been a bit difficult for them to do so. Further, it is the elected official who is responsible for disclosing their conflicts, not city staff. This vote actually made the difference between the Station District project moving forward and it not. It is unclear at this point what this means to the advancement of the Station District project. Technically without Michele Martinez’s vote, the Council does not have the necessary 4 votes required to approve the item.

This cannot be fixed by a re-vote or a return of campaign contributions. You cannot rob a bank and then return the money 5 months later and get a free pass. Martinez took money from the project developers before and after her vote. This is either the height of arrogance, stupidity, or both. She really should just get it over with and resign.

UPDATE: The Orange County Register’s Doug Irving has uncovered even more than I did, and it isn’t pretty.

OCRegister: Campaign contributions raise questions over Santa Ana vote: http://bit.ly/dkNmSk 

  8 comments for “More ‘Pay to Play’ in Santa Ana – Michele Martinez in hot water over Station District vote

  1. junior
    September 14, 2010 at 6:40 am

    She knows – they all know that this is a no-no.
    How many times have we heard a Council member recuse themselves from deliberations or a vote because of a campaign contribution?

    In-f##$$ng-credible !!!

  2. Al Simmons
    September 14, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Once a candidate receives $1000 from any one entity they are required to report it immediately. Since Martinez didn’t report the cumulative $1000 from Bill Witte or Related until July, she may also be in violation of campaign finance laws as well as the city charter.

    What’s hilarious is that she and the other council members were all whining publicly at the end of the last council meeting that Santa Ana is nothing like the city of Bell.
    As more and more things like this are found out, it is starting to look like Santa Ana is exactly like the city of Bell. Santa Ana may not have the big salaries, but they do have the big league ethical violations and abuses of office within city hall.

  3. junior
    September 14, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Another thing –
    Council members go through ethics and campaign does and don’ts classes – they KNOW what they they can and can’t do.

  4. Steve
    September 14, 2010 at 10:53 am

    When it comes to the loss of her independence and ethics, that train has left the station.

  5. September 14, 2010 at 11:50 am

    She learned well from her new bestie, Claudia…

  6. Apple Pie
    September 14, 2010 at 11:55 am

    There are only two things that are different
    between Bell and Santa Ana the spelling and we’re watching.
    We need to dump the Corruption Twins. For Sal it started with supporting Nativo Lopez.
    Michele it looks like this is a life long way of life.

  7. Jeff Dickman
    September 14, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    Great work Chris,

    Sal and Michele blame City staff for their mis-step. From my perspective perhaps city staff are doing their part to clean up government.

Comments are closed.